What causes gout?
Gout shows up when small crystals turn up in the joints of your body, causing the telltale symptoms of gout – pain, swelling, and tenderness. These crystals happen when too much uric acid builds up in your body.
Uric acid is made when your body breaks down another kind of chemical called ‘purines’. The kidneys should normally be able to remove enough of the uric acid out of your body, but if they don’t then it starts to build up, forming small crystals. Your joints are normally slightly colder than the rest of the body, which makes it easier for the crystals to grow there. If the crystals get into the space between the joints then this is what causes gout to flare up.
Having a lot of uric acid in your body is the biggest risk factor for getting gout. But, you can have high levels of uric acid in your blood and not get any symptoms.
There are some factors which make it more likely that you’ll have high uric acid levels and more of a risk of getting gout, e.g.:
Other health conditions which make gout more likely, include:
Medications you’re taking can raise your uric acid levels, like:
Your diet can make gout more likely because uric acid is produced from purines and your diet can contain a lot of purines, see the “Does diet affect gout?” section below for more details.
How much alcohol you drink is a big risk factor for gout because it increases uric acid levels in the body. Beer is the worst for this, followed by spirits like vodka, but small amounts of wine are ok.
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