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Gout and High Uric Acid

High levels of uric acid in the body can build up, causing a painful condition known as, “gout”. This is a form of arthritis that can affect the big toe, heels, ankles, instep, fingers, knees, wrists, and elbows. Symptoms include stiffening of the joints, redness, pain, swelling, and heat in the affected area.

What causes gout?

When too much uric acid builds up in the body, one or more of the following may occur:

• Sharp crystals of uric acid are deposited in the joints, (many times in the big toe).
• Uric acid (called tophi) gets deposited as lumps under the skin.
• Kidney stones are formed from crystals of uric acid.

The breakdown of certain substances called, “purines”, found in the body’s tissues produce uric acid. Purines are also found in foods such as peas, dried beans, anchovies, and liver. Most of the time uric acid dissolves naturally in the blood and is flushed through the kidneys. Sometimes however, the body either produces too much uric acid or cannot rid itself of enough uric acid.

Contributing Factors

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the following contribute to this condition.

• Too much food high in purines is consumed
• The body lacks an enzyme helpful in breaking down purines
• The person is exposed to lead
• The person has had an organ transplant
• The vitamin niacin is taken
• The person is male
• Excessive alcohol is consumed
• There is a family history of gout
• The person is overweight
• Certain medications are taken including, aspirin, diuretics, cyclosporine, or levodopa