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Gout is a condition that most commonly causes a painful, red, swollen, hot joint or joints. It is caused by such high levels of uric acid, a natural chemical in the blood, that crystals begin to form.
Mostly, one joint becomes painful, red, hot and swollen over a very short time. Generally, the first joint to be affected is the big toe, but in up to a third of people the attack starts elsewhere. Sometimes more than one joint or soft tissues (muscles, tendons, tissues below the skin) may be affected by the inflammation.
The majority of the time, the cause is inbuilt and not a direct result of eating or drinking the wrong things. Some prescribed drugs can make gout worse. If you think this is the case, you should consult your Pharmacist or GP. Where no other cause is identified, this is known as idiopathic gout.
Certain food products are high in uric acid (e.g. offal, meat extracts and fish roe) and alcohol can cause increased levels of uric acid in the blood. Kidney failure and the use of water tablets (diuretics) are also known to cause gout.
You should consult your doctor if you think you have gout. You may have a blood sample taken to test the uric acid level. Gout is usually treated with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. However, if you have a persistently elevated uric acid level and have frequent attacks of gout, your doctor may prescribe a regular preventative treatment.