Gout gives you a very brief warning before it attacks, if it warns you at all. The typical gout symptoms and signs follow a similar pattern, which begins with inflammation and pain in the big toe joint of one foot. Of course, gout is not limited to attacking the toe joint. It can be sneaky and begin in others joints, including fingers, wrists, elbows, knees, ankles and feet.
Symptoms of a gout attack can occur literally overnight. You wake up with excruciating pain that is so intense the lightest touch can hurt. For some people, the only solution is to hang their foot off the edge of the bed because even the softest sheet can exert painful pressure. Moving your affected joint is extremely painful and often the tissue becomes inflamed, stretching your skin and making it itch.
A milder attack can begin the same way — suddenly and at night. The pain may not be as excruciating and the joint will be warm, not hot, tender, not swollen and aching intensely. A really mild attack may present as a persistent joint ache.
You might also see bumps forming in odd places such as your ear. These are monosodium urate crystals referred to as tophi. While they are a symptom of gout, they are not necessarily an early symptom.
Too much uric acid in your blood, or hyperuricemia, causes gout. Urate crystals can become stony deposits under your skin, which is what tophi are. (The singular of tophi is tophus which is Latin for stone.)
Gout is a form of arthritis and is often linked to other forms of arthritis. If you have suffered acute gouty arthritis, you are a prime target for tophi. They don’t usually show up until you have been plagued by other signs of gout for about ten years. Of course, they can appear even earlier than that. It is not unusual for tophi to show up after three or four years of gout attacks.
While tophi typically appear in your ears or on your hands and fingers, the bumps can also show up in other cartilage and bones as well as your joints. They can form in your kidneys and your nasal cartilage. Tophi can puncture your skin and crop up on the surface of your skin as white or yellow nodules with a chalky appearance. As you can see, although these are at the extreme end of possible symptoms, gout can have some pretty serious implications.
The older you are, the more likely you are to have gout with tophi. It also attacks more women than men although in general more men than women have gout.
Bad News about Lack of Symptoms
Too many people think that once the first bout of gout is over, they are home free. The gout signs and symptoms are gone and so is the pain. However, gout is still part of you.
Without a change in your diet, the uric acid level in your blood will still be too high and continue dropping uric crystals in your joint fluid. It is just a matter of time before the next gout flare-up.
Each time gout returns, it is a little bit worse. The ongoing high levels of uric acid just keep aggravating your joints. In a healthy system, your kidneys carry the excess uric acid out of your body in urine. When the levels get too high, your kidneys cannot keep up with the demand. If you could reduce the uric acid in your system, you could overcome the problem.
To be completely accurate, chances are good that the problem could be overcome. Sometimes the problem begins because the kidneys not working properly and lack the ability to carry away enough uric acid which then causes hyperuricemia and eventually gout. In either case, your kidneys then become vulnerable to kidney stones, which are lumps of crystallized uric acid.
The big question becomes, what causes the accumulation of uric acid? As mentioned above, it could be a kidney problem. Ultimately however, it depends on your diet. Uric acid is developed as a natural by-product of eating certain types of foods rich in purines.
Relieving Gout and Its Symptoms
Clearly cutting back on purine-based foods is a good place to start in flushing the excess uric acid out of your system. Cutting back on purines is a challenge because they are a component of all the cells in your body as well as in all food. A purine is a basic chemical structure in the cells of all living things, including plants. We need enough purine to keep our cells healthy but not too much.
Some foods have a higher purine level and the best way to reduce uric acid is to reduce the intake of high-purine foods. High purine foods tend to be high-protein as well. Organ meat, certain fish such as mackerel and sardines are high in purine, for example.
Information on what to eat and knowing what not to eat are giant steps toward alleviating the pain and symptoms of gout. You can also benefit from several gout remedies you can make yourself and use as a treatment, using things you will already have in your home.
The most important item to take from the information on this page is that the common gout symptoms such as pain and swelling are only the tip of the iceberg. Even when the pain and swelling is not present, the gout condition is still there and will come back. Unless it is treated.