Gout is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis. It’s caused by sodium urate crystals forming in the joints. While the big toe is particularly susceptible, gout can also affect the ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and fingers.
Urate, or uric acid, is an end-product of the breakdown of biochemicals called purines, which are both components of your DNA and absorbed into the body through the foods you eat. Urate levels reflect how much is made in the liver and how much is flushed out when you go to the toilet.
If your urate levels become too high, the urate turns into crystals. When urate crystals form in the fluid cushioning a joint, the body’s defence forces see them as foreign invaders. Inflammation and debilitating pain follow.
What causes gout?
A high level of urate in the blood is the greatest risk factor for gout.
Management and prevention
You should ice and raise the affected joint and minimise contact with it — even a light bedsheet can cause excruciating pain.
Attacks of gout can last for days or weeks. If you think you have gout, you should see your doctor.
Anti-inflammatory drugs can ease gout attacks. Your doctor might prescribe colchicine, or you can get ibuprofen over the counter.
It’s easy to stop exercising, but swimming and cycling are two ways you can comfortably continue moving during a gout flare.