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"What does gout feel like?"


I'm 47 years old and have begun feeling some extreme discomfort in my toe. I've heard this is a sign of gout. What exactly does gout feel like? Are there symptoms I would notice in other parts of my body?


Sorry to hear that you have developed some discomfort in your toe, and you are worried that it may be due to gout. Gout, or "podagra" is a systemic medical condition that is characterized by recurrent acute inflammatory arthritis. I say that it is a systemic medical condition, because it is the result of too high of blood levels of uric acid.

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When uric acid concentration in the blood gets too high, then it can precipitate out of solution and form crystals. These crystals tend to form in joints, and in particular seem to have an affinity for forming in the metatarsal-phalangeal joint of the big toe. You can imagine that hundreds of small sharp crystals within the joint causes a significant amount of inflammation, and resultant pain. In gout uric acid can also crystallize and deposit in tendons, and the kidneys, and can even cause kidney stones. Gout was traditionally known as the disease of "kings" or the wealthy due to the fact that eating a diet high in protein is one of the risk factors for having high uric acid levels in the blood (it is a metabolite of protein). Classically people that have a gout flare say that even the sheet on a bed touching their toe is excruciatingly painful. It is usually treated acutely with NSAIDs (anti-inflammatories), and allopurinol is used for long-term prevention. If you think that you have a gout flare-up, I would recommend making an appointment with a your primary care physician, or a rheumatologist to get evaluated. I wish you all the best.

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