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What is gout?

Gout is a form of arthritis which can be intensely painful; and it's caused by having sodium urate crystals in your joints. These may be present for years without you knowing they're there, but on occasions they can trigger an attack of gout.

Attacks of gout usually come on very quickly, often during the night. Doctors describe this sudden development of symptoms as 'acute'.

At one time it was thought that gout was caused simply by overeating and drinking too much alcohol. While this can make attacks of gout more likely, it's not the whole story.

Gout is caused by chemical processes that take place in your body. A substance called urate builds up, sometimes because your kidneys aren't able to get rid of it quickly enough. Over a period of time this leads to urate crystals forming in and around your joints.

Once there are a lot of crystals in your joints some of them can trigger a sudden painful episode of severe joint inflammation ('attack') which usually settles back to appear normal within a week. If untreated these attacks get more common and spread to involve new joints.

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