Gout is a complex form of arthritis that most commonly affects the joint at the base of the big toe. The condition is characterized by sudden attacks of severe pain in red, tender joints. Though gout typically affects men, women become more susceptible after menopause.
Gout is caused by a build up of urate crystals in the joint, which occurs when there are high levels of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is produced in the body naturally, and is also a byproduct of the digestion of certain foods such as organ meats, anchovies, herring, asparagus, and mushrooms. A build up occurs when the kidneys cannot keep up with uric acid filtering and excretion.
The painful flare-ups caused by gout can usually be managed with a combination of medications that treat inflammation as well as prevent the build up of uric acid.