Gout is caused by small crystals forming in the joints, resulting in severe pain, tendernessand swelling.
These crystals can grow when a waste product called uric acid starts to build up to high levels inthe body.
Uric acid is created when the body breaks down chemicals known as purines.
If your kidneys don't filter out enough uric acid, or your body is producing unusually high levels of it, it can build up in the body and turn into microscopic crystals.
These crystals usually form in and around the joints, possibly because the temperature in these areas is slightly lower than the rest of the body. If they get into the space between joints, the crystals can cause painful inflammation (redness and swelling).
A high level of uric acid in the blood is the main factor that increases your risk of developing gout. However, it's still uncertain why some people with a high level of uric acid in the blood develop gout, while others with an equally high level don't.
Other factors that may increase your risk of developing gout are outlined below.
Some underlying medical conditions can increase your risk of developing gout, including:
Certain medications can increase your uric acid levels and your risk of developing gout. These include:
Uric acid is created when the body breaks down purines. Eating foods that contain a high level of purines can increase your risk of gout.
Foods naturally high in purines include:
Alcoholic drinks can raise the level of uric acid in the blood.
Beer, fortified wines like port, and spirits do this more than wine. Moderate consumption of wine one or two glasses a day shouldn't significantly increase your risk of gout.
Certain sugary drinks may also increase your risk of gout.
Some research hasfound that drinking sugar-sweetened soft drinks and drinks with high levels of fructose (a naturally occurring sugar found in manyfruits)had anincreased risk of gout.
Studies have shown that gout often runs in families. Aroundone in five people with gout have a close family member with the condition.
There is no direct connection, but some gout medications can cause hyperglycemia.
Read about gout, a type of arthritis where crystals form inside and around joints. Find out about the symptoms, causes and treatments.
The most common symptom of gout is sudden and very severe pain in one or more of your joints.
Find out about the main causes of gout, and read about what can increase your risk, such as your diet, medications and family history.
Read about how gout is diagnosed, including what your GP may ask and what tests may be carried out.
Read about the main treatments for gout, including ways to relieve pain during an attach and prevent attacks occurring in the first place.
Read about the possible complications of gout, including small lumps under the skin (tophi), joint damage and kidney stones.
Read the story of Gina Beauchamp, who was diagnosed with gout in her late 30s.
Read the story of Patrick Hanmer, who was 32 and living life to the full when he had his first attack of gout.