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Gout is a disorder that results from deposits of sodium urate crystals generating in the joints which leads to attacks of painful joint inflammation. These depostits come from the elevated blood levels of uric acid, a condition called hyperuricemia. Pseudogout can cause symptoms similar to gout, but is caused by a different type of crystal deposits -calcium pyrophosphate!
Incidence of the gout
Gout is more common in men than in women. Usually, gout develops in middle-aged men and after the menopause in women. It is very rare in younger people but is often more severe in people who develop the disorder before the age 30. It is also important to know that gout often runs in families.
Normal cycle of uric acid
What exactly is a uric acid? Normally, uric acid is nothing more then a by-product of cell nucleic acid breakdown. It is present in very small amounts in the blood because the body continually breaks down cells and forms the new ones. Another source of uric acid are the substances called purines which can normally be found in food.
Foods high in purines include:
- meat gravies and broths,
- all organ meats,
Possible causes of gout
In most cases, the elevated uric-acid levels are caused by the improper functioning of the kidneys. If for some reason the kidneys cannot eliminate enough uric acid in the urine, too much uric acid in the blood results in urate crystals being formed and deposited in the joints.
There are several other conditions that can cause hyperuricemia. Large amounts of uric acid may be produced because of an inherited enzyme abnormality or a disease such as leukemia, in which cells multiply and break down rapidly.
Sometimes however, the exact cause of gout cannot be determined. Doctors refer to this as secondary gout.
Risk factors for developing gout
There are several possible risk factors that could be linked to developing gout:
- Certain cancers and blood disorders
- Certain drugs - thiazide diuretics, cyclosporine, nicotinic acid, warfarin, salicylates…
- Certain foods, especially those rich in purines
- Lifestyle factors - consumption of alcohol is a common lifestyle factor that increases the risk of gout.
- Age and sex.
- Lead poisoning
- Radiation treatment
- Renal failure