What causes gout?
Gout symptoms occur when you have a buildup of uric acid in your blood. Uric acid is a waste product that results from normal body processes and normally dissolves in the blood. It passes through the kidneys and out of the body in urine, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. But when the body produces too much uric acid, or the kidneys cannot get rid of it fast enough, the excess acid might form crystals in your joints. This causes gout. If you are taking a medication that increases the level of uric acid in your bloodstream or have a family history of high levels of uric acid, you are more likely to get gout, says Eric Ruderman, MD, a professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Check out these 13 natural gout treatments for pain and swelling.
Gout symptom: swollen big toe
One of the first gout symptoms is usually a sudden episode of painful swelling due to the crystallization of uric acid, and occurs most often in the joint of the big toe. Hyon Choi, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital, says the pain can be so severe it feels like a bone has been broken. “It often happens abruptly in the middle of the night and is so intense you can’t put a bed sheet on top of it,” he says. “Even the lightest touches create a huge pain.” Dr. Choi says the swelling occurs in the big toe, which becomes warm, red, and swollen, because it’s the furthest joint from the heart, where the body temperature is the lowest and crystals are more likely to deposit. The gout attacks can last a few days or even a few weeks before the pain goes away, and another episode might not occur for months or years.