Gouty Arthritis

Gouty arthritis is a type of arthritis characterized by swelling in the joints, extreme tenderness in the joint area, and a sudden onset of intense joint pain, among other things. It can occur when uric acid, which is normally dissolved in the blood and passed through the kidneys into the urine, builds up in the blood. Diabetes, HIV infection, and pseudogout are among the conditions that can share similar symptoms with this type of arthritis. While there is no cure, the disease can be controlled with drugs and certain lifestyle changes.

What Is Gouty Arthritis?

Gouty arthritis (also known as gout) is one of the most painful forms of arthritis. The term arthritis refers to more than 100 different rheumatic diseases that affect the joints, muscles, and bones, as well as other tissues and structures. Gouty arthritis accounts for approximately 5 percent of all cases of arthritis.
Gouty arthritis occurs in approximately 840 out of every 100,000 people. It is rare in children and young adults. Adult men, particularly those between the ages of 40 and 50, are more likely to develop gout than women, who rarely develop the disorder before menopause. People who have had an organ transplant are more susceptible to gout.

Uric Acid and Hyperuricemia

Uric acid is a substance that results from the breakdown of purines, which are part of all human tissue and are found in many foods. Normally, uric acid is dissolved in the blood and passed through the kidneys into the urine, where it is eliminated.
If the body increases its production of uric acid or if the kidneys do not eliminate enough uric acid from the body, increased levels of it build up in the blood. This condition is called hyperuricemia.
Hyperuricemia is not a disease and by itself is not dangerous. However, if excess uric acid crystals form as a result of hyperuricemia, gouty arthritis can develop. This increased level of uric acid in the blood can also lead to:
  • Deposits of uric acid (called tophi) that look like lumps under the skin around the joints and at the rim of the ear
  • Kidney stones from uric acid crystals in the kidneys.
While there is no one specific cause of gout, there are a number of factors that increase a person's chances of developing gout.
(Click Causes of Gout or Gout Risk Factors to learn more about specific risk factors for gout.)
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