I’m a 49-year-old man. The last few nights I’ve awakened with pain in my big toe that’s so intense, just touching the sheet is almost unbearable. What could this be? Page Content“Your symptom is typical of an inflammatory arthritic condition known as gout,” says Kirkwood Johnston, M.D., a board-certified physician specializing in Rheumatology at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. “The most common sign of gout is a nighttime attack of sharp pain in the small joint at the base of the big toe.” Dr. Johnston says that other joints, including ankles, knees, wrists and elbows, may also be affected.“Gout attacks may last for a few days or many weeks, and then go away without another acute occurrence for months or years,” he says. “They are triggered by an excessive build-up of uric acid, a waste product formed by the body’s natural processes, which has hardened into crystals and deposited in joints.”Men, particularly those between 40 and 50, seem more susceptible to gout than women.“Treatment usually includes medications to lower uric acid levels, combined with counseling patients to make lifestyle adjustments that help prevent future episodes.”Left untreated, gout can become a chronic joint disease, occasionally leading to painful kidney stones and kidney failure.“Fortunately, once diagnosed, knowledgeable treatment can usually manage the condition. And since early detection is important to successful treatment, I suggest you see a rheumatologist without delay,” concludes Dr. Johnston, who cares for patients at three Kelsey-Seybold Clinic locations: Downtown at The Shops at Houston Center, Clear Lake Clinic and the Main Campus clinic near the Texas Medical Center.