What Is Gout?
Gout is one of the most common medical disorders ever experienced around the globe. It is caused by the body not processing uric acid effectively; this may be due to a buildup caused by indulging in foods such as chocolate, seafood and red wine, or simply the inability of the body to process it.
The uric acid in the joints then crystallizes causing inflammation and pain which is referred to as a gout attack, or gouty arthritis. In severe gout an increase in uric acid may cause things like kidney stones and other more serious kidney problems.
Who Is Affected by Gout?
Gout tends to affect men more than women and you are more likely to suffer from gout if you are over 50 years old and:
- Your parents had gout
- You are obese
- You have excessive weight gain
- You drink moderate amounts of alcohol
- You have high blood pressure
- You have problems with your kidneys
What Are The Symptoms of Gout?
Gout can affect any joint in the body, although the first metatarsalphylangeal joint (the joint at the base of the big toe) is the most common area for a gout attack. Other common areas of gout include the knees, ankles, fingers, wrists and elbows.
- A gout attack causes severe pain in the affected area followed by redness, swelling and tenderness. In severe gout the pain can be so intense that the slightest touch or movement can be excruciating
- A gout attack can last from hours to days, and if you suffer from chronic gout these attacks can last for weeks
Gout (metatarsalphylangeal joint)
With repeated, or prolonged gout attacks lumps of inflamed tissue can form in the joint. These are called tophi.
Gout in the fingers (showing tophi)
Larger joints such as the elbow have a bursa around them– a fluid filled sack which absorbs shock and helps with joint movement. When the bursa is affected by gout it is known as bursitis.
Gout in the elbow (showing bursitis)
Treatments For Gout
If you are experiencing gout attacks, or you think you may have gout, see your doctor immediately as you may need:
- Pain relief (either prescription or over the counter medications)
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDS) and/or corticosteroids to decrease the inflammation in the joints
- Other prescription medications which help reduce the amount of uric acid produced by the body, help excrete the uric acid from the body, and lower the levels of uric acid in the blood
How To Prevent Gout Attacks
- Good hydration is the best and simplest way to prevent gout attacks. Drinking plenty of water will also help prevent dehydration and lower the risk of kidney stones and other complications caused by a buildup of uric acid
- Cut down on alcohol consumption – Alcohol affects how the body metabolizes uric acid which can lead to a buildup in your system (hyperuricemia) causing gout attacks
- Be careful what you eat – foods that are high in purines like all organ meats (liver, kidney etc), shellfish, anchovies, mackerel, dried beans, dried peas, chocolate and beer/wine may cause gout attacks. (purines are converted into uric acid by the body)
- Have a healthy eating plan and a regular exercise routine