Without warning and, for some reason, in the middle of the night, gout strikes -- an intense pain in a joint, most often the big toe, but sometimes other joints, including knees, ankles, elbows, thumbs, or fingers.
Attacks of gout can be unexpected and excruciatingly painful. With prompt treatment, the pain and inflammation usually disappear after a few days, but they may recur at any time.
More than 2 million Americans suffer from gout. Gout occurs more often in men than in women. Men usually develop it between the ages of 30 and 50. Women are more prone to gout after menopause, and it is rare in children and young adults. Men who are overweight or suffering from high blood pressure are particularly prone to gout, especially if they are taking thiazide diuretics (water pills).
Gout is actually a form of arthritis. It is the body's reaction to irritating crystal deposits in the joints. The pain can be intense, but treatment usually works very well. Mild cases may be controlled by diet alone. Recurring attacks of gout may require long-term medication to prevent damage to bone and cartilage and deterioration of the kidneys.
Chronic gout sufferers may feel tiny, hard lumps accumulating over time in the soft flesh of areas such as the hands, elbows, feet, or earlobes. These deposits, called tophi, are concentrations of uric acid crystals and can cause pain and stiffness over time. If similar deposits form in the kidneys, they can lead to painful and potentially dangerous kidney stones.
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