Gout is not contagious disease, so it cannot spread to others. It has nothing to do with viral or bacterial infection. It is a type of arthritis, but it can be more painful if compared to other types of arthritis. Many times, it often affects the big toe. The next question, can it spread to other toes or other joints of the body?
It is triggered by having too much uric acid (a breakdown product from purine) in the body. There are two major possibilities why the levels of uric acid in the bloodstream can increase higher than normal:
- The body breaks down too much purine (a protein that can be found in some foods).
- The body is poor in getting rid of excess uric acid.
The failure of the body in keeping ‘the level of uric acid’ normal will increase the chance for this acid to move to the joints. Over time, the high accumulation of this acid can make needle-like crystals around the joints, causing inflammation and you will notice the symptoms of gout such as pain, heat, swelling, and redness.
Though gout is commonly linked to high uric acid, but the exact cause of this arthritis is not fully understood yet. In fact, not all people whose uric acid levels in the blood are high develop gout.
Gender can be a risk factor since it affects more men, though the amount of women with it increases significantly after menopause.
The habit of too much drinking alcohol can have an effect, too. Alcohol (especially in beer) contains high purines. See also the correlation between drinking alcohol and gouty arthritis!
Some people are relatively easier to have elevated uric acid in their blood. Experts believe that it runs in families. If you have a family history of gout, you have greater risk of developing the same disorder.
Certain conditions may contribute to the increased risk of gout. These include:
- Both gout and kidney disease can affect each other. Remember that your body needs healthy kidneys to filter uric acid in the blood. And poorly controlled uric acid in people with gout can raise the risk of kidney disease, too – because excess uric acid may accumulate and stay in the tract of urinary system, increasing the risk of kidney stones.
- Untreated chronic health problems, such as hypertension or high blood pressure, diabetes, high LDL (bad cholesterol) & fat in the blood, and narrowing arteries condition (arteriosclerosis).
Though it is not categorized into contagious diseases, but it can spread throughout the body. The chance of the disease to spread and affect other joints is dependent on how well you stick with the treatment plan to keep the uric acid level as normal as possible.
In other words, the poorly controlled uric acid can increase the risk of developing more urate crystals in other joints, causing new gout.
Typically, the painful inflammation of gout affects only one joint at a time. But sometime it can affect a few joints, too.
As noted before, mostly it affects the big toe (either one or both of big toes). It is less common to be found in other toes. Knee, ankle, mid-foot, and elbows are other common sites where it occurs.
*To completely understand about the common joints affected by gouty arthritis and how this joint disease progresses from the first attack to become chronic, see this section!