Gout is a type of arthritis that occurs when uric acid builds up in the blood, causing joint inflammation and pain. Gout is much more prevalent in men, but becomes more common in women after menopause.
To understand the cause of gout, you also have to understand uric acid. Uric acid is naturally present in the human body and is produced when cells die and release purines. (Don’t Google ‘purine’ – we did it for you: “A colorless crystalline compound… forming uric acid on oxidation.”) Purines are also introduced to the body through certain foods that are now considered triggers of Gout.
Normally, uric acid is pushed out of the body through the urinary system, but heredity, diet, kidney problems, and rapid weight loss can cause the uric acid to accumulate. A high level of uric acid is known as ‘hyperuricemia,’ which puts you at a high risk for gout.
If too much uric acid accumulates, you can develop urate crystals (needle-like crystals made of uric acid) in joints, skin, and other tissues. As you can imagine, a needle-like crystal sticking out of your joint and into the surrounding skin, tissue, muscles, and veins would be excruciatingly painful.
This is gout. Typically, these crystals develop in the joint at the base of the big toe (left) which can make walking and standing extremely painful.