Gout occurs when uric acid crystallises (urate crystals) and are deposited in your joint, causing intense pain and inflammation. Urate crystals are formed when there are high levels of uric acid in your blood.
Your body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines. Normally, the uric acid gets dissolved in your blood and passes through the kidneys into your urine. However, sometimes your body produces too much uric acid, or your kidneys excrete too little uric acid. This causes uric acid to build up, forming urate crystals that are deposited in a joint. This causes intense pain, swelling and inflammation.
You're more likely to get gout if you have high levels of uric acid in your body. Factors that increase the uric acid level are:
- Diet: Eating a diet rich in meat and seafood, drinking beverages sweetened with fruit sugar (fructose) and consuming alcohol increase levels of uric acid.
- Medical conditions: Certain diseases, including untreated high blood pressure, diabetes, heart and kidney diseases, increase your risk of gout.
- Age and sex: Gout is more common in men than women because men have high uric acid levels. However, after menopause, women too can get gout because their uric acid levels are as high as that of men.
- Obesity: When you are overweight, your body produces more uric acid, and your kidneys are not able to eliminate uric acid.
- Family history of gout: If gout runs in the family, you are likely to develop it.
- Certain medications: Low-dose of aspirin and thiazide diuretics (used to treat hypertension) increases uric acid levels.
- Recent surgery or trauma: Recent surgery or trauma can be a risk factor for developing gout.