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Gout is a painful arthritic condition that’s caused by a buildup of uric acid — a waste product in your blood.

Usually, uric acid is removed through your urine when you pee. But when uric acid builds up, it can form sharp crystals that cause swelling and inflammation in your joints, especially the feet.

Here are common symptoms to look out for along with where and when they typically appear.

Pain and swelling are the main symptoms of gout, but how these symptoms appear can be rather specific. Gout usually appears as flare-ups with:

  • intense or sharp pain
  • swelling
  • redness
  • skin that is hot to the touch

In many cases, gout begins at night and is so severe that it wakes you from your sleep.

Severe cases may also include bulging or deformed joints. Your doctor will be able to see evidence of uric acid crystals in the affected joint using an X-ray, ultrasound, or dual-energy CT when making a diagnosis. Taking fluid from the joint and observing uric acid crystals in immune cells may be needed to confirm a gout diagnosis.

Gout is a chronic condition, but it’s not always consistent. Flare-ups can last for days to weeks, but you can also have weeks or even years without a flare-up.

Usually, flare-ups target a single joint, and the big toe is a favored spot for uric acid to collect. Other common places for gout pain include:

  • other toe joints
  • ankles
  • knees

Gout triggers and risk factors

Gout symptoms and flare-ups can be managed. First, it’s important to identify triggers and risk factors like:

Once you’ve identified what triggers your gout and any risk factors that you have, you can work with your doctor to create a plan that helps you avoid triggers and manage any medical conditions that affect your condition.