Inflamed, stiff joints may seem like something that every person develops over time, but if you have been experiencing severe pain affecting one or more joints, you might suffer from a more serious kind of arthritis: gout. Because gout can mimic other types of arthritis, being able to recognize the symptoms of gout is crucial to developing an effective treatment strategy.
Who is at risk. According to the American College of Rheumatology, gout affects 3 million Americans and can be a debilitating disease. The disease, also known as gouty arthritis, strikes men more often and earlier than women, with most cases occurring after puberty. The National Institute of Health estimates that gout makes up 5 percent of all arthritis cases and affects four men for every one woman.
Women don't see an increase in cases until after menopause, so age and gender can be considerations when diagnosing gout. Despite being known as the "rich man’s disease” due to a history of more common occurrence in the upper classes, gout can affect anyone regardless of age, race or economic status. The American College of Rheumatology website offers more information on doctor-diagnosed gout.
Swollen, painful joints. The hallmark symptom of arthritis in general is one or more swollen, painful joints. Gouty arthritis is no different, but this symptom is caused by an excess of uric acid, a natural waste product, in the body. This chemical buildup forms sharp crystals on joints that irritate the surrounding tissues, causing unexpected and painful attacks.
Red, hot skin. The main symptom occurring in patients specifically with gout is developing red, hot skin above the affected joint. These areas are more sensitive to pain during attacks, and it can be excruciating to put the slightest pressure on the skin. According to the National Library of Medicine, the joint where the big toe meets the foot is one of the most common places for gout, making it difficult for sufferers to walk.
Other related symptoms. Due to the excessive uric acid content, gout patients may also experience kidney stones, heart disease or kidney disease. All of the symptoms can be exacerbated by obesity, diabetes and hypertension, making diet and regular exercise an integral part of any prevention and treatment regimen. Gout also has genetic factors, so if you have a family history of gout, you may be more prone to developing the disease.