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What do I need to know about gout?

Michael A Becker, Gary E Ruoff
Journal of Family Practice 2010, 59 (6 Suppl): S1-8
20544070
Many patients with gout present with an acute attack (flare) of gouty arthritis. In its early stages, gout is a chronic, often silent disorder punctuated by acute, extremely painful arthritic flares. Over time, untreated or insufficiently treated gout may progress, with more frequent flares and formation of urate crystal deposits (tophi) and associated chronic, deforming arthritis (gouty arthropathy). About 20% of patients with gout have urinary tract stones and can develop an interstitial urate nephropathy. Gout (also called urate crystal deposition disease) is characterized by reduced renal clearance or, less frequently, an overproduction of uric acid. When the serum urate acid (sUA) level persistently exceeds 6.8 mg/dL, extracellular fluids become saturated and hyperuricemia occurs. Hyperuricemia is also very common among adult men and postmenopausal women, most of whom remain asymptomatic with respect to gout throughout their lives. Nevertheless, hyperuricemia is the major risk factor for gout because it predisposes to urate crystal formation and deposition, particularly in and around joints and in other soft tissue structures. The symptoms and signs of gout result from acute and chronic inflammatory responses of the body to urate crystal deposits. Although any joint may be affected, the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint of the great toe (podagra) is the first joint affected in half of all cases. One major goal in managing gout is to treat the pain of acute flares aggressively with anti-inflammatory agents to reduce flare intensity and duration. In addition, most patients with gout eventually require long-term treatment with urate-lowering therapy (ULT) to reverse the chronic urate crystal deposition and to prevent recurrent flares that can cause permanent joint damage.

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