Gout (cont.)

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What are gout symptoms and signs?

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The small joint at the base of the big toe is the most common site of an acute gout attack of arthritis. An acute attack of gouty arthritis at the base of the big toe is medically referred to as podagra. Other joints that are commonly affected include the ankles, knees, wrists, fingers, and elbows. Acute gout attacks are characterized by a rapid onset of pain in the affected joint followed by warmth, swelling, reddish discoloration, and marked tenderness. Tenderness can be intense so that even a blanket touching the skin over the affected joint can be unbearable. Patients can develop fever with the acute gout attacks. These painful attacks usually subside in hours to days, with or without medication. In rare instances, an attack can last for weeks. Most patients with gout will experience repeated attacks of arthritis over the years.

Uric acid crystals can deposit in tiny fluid-filled sacs (bursae) around the joints. These urate crystals can incite inflammation in the bursae, leading to pain and swelling around the joints (a condition called bursitis). In rare instances, gout leads to a more chronic type of joint inflammation that mimics rheumatoid arthritis.

In chronic (tophaceous) gout, nodular masses of uric acid crystals (tophi) deposit in different soft-tissue areas of the body. Even though they are most commonly found as hard nodules around the fingers, at the tips of the elbows, in the ears, and around the big toe, tophi nodules can appear anywhere in the body. They have been reported in unexpected areas such as in the vocal cords or (rarely) even around the spinal cord. When tophi appear in the tissues, the gout condition is felt to represent a substantial overload of uric acid within the body.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/9/2014

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