Author: David Porzio, MD
Gout affects more than 3 million Americans. It is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis that is very painful and it usually affects one joint at a time. Along with the big toe (which is the most common gout-stricken joint), joints that are commonly affected are the lesser toe joints, the ankle, and the knee. Gout flare-ups start suddenly and can last days or sometimes weeks. These flare-ups are followed by long periods of remission—weeks, months, or even years—without symptoms before another flare begins.
When there is too much uric acid in the body, known as Hyperuricemia, is the main cause of gout. Medical providers will typically treat the condition with prescription medication that helps treat the symptoms of gout attacks, prevent future flares, and reduce the risk of complications such as kidney stones and tophi. Tophi refers to when acid crystals form masses of white growths that develop around the affected areas.
Common medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids, another anti-inflammatory. These reduce swelling and pain in the areas affected by gout. Excessive uric acid levels are typically due to the overproduction of uric acid or issues with the kidneys in excreting this substance adequately. A person may use medicines to reduce uric acid production or improve the kidney’s ability to remove uric acid from the body.
Without treatment, an acute gout attack will be at its worst between 12 and 24 hours after it began. A person can expect to recover within 1–2 weeks without treatment, but there may be significant pain during this period.
Individuals with gout can manage flare-ups by moderating what they eat and drink — a balanced diet can help reduce symptoms. Decreasing foods and drinks high in purines (a chemical compound found in foods that is known to cause gout) to ensure that uric acid levels in the blood do not get too high is an important first step.
Avoiding all purine consumption altogether is not necessary. Moderate consumption of purine-rich items can help manage uric acid levels and gout symptoms and benefit overall dietary health. A person experiencing symptoms of gout may benefit from general arthritis home treatments which include staying active, maintaining a moderate weight, and performing low-impact exercises to support joint health.
Gout attacks can come on quickly and may keep recurring over time. This ongoing resurgence can slowly harm tissue in the inflammation area and can be extremely painful. Some risk factors that increases your chances of gout are:
- Hypertension and other cardiovascular conditions
- Being male (females are more at risk after they begin menopause)
- Using certain medications, such as diuretics (water pills)
- Drinking alcohol. The risk of gout is greater as alcohol intake goes up
- Eating or drinking food and drinks high in fructose (a type of sugar)
- Having a diet high in purines, which the body breaks down into uric acid. Purine-rich foods include red meat, organ meat, and some kinds of seafood, such as anchovies, sardines, mussels, scallops, trout, and tuna.
A medical doctor diagnoses gout by assessing your symptoms and the results of your physical examination, X-rays, and lab tests. Gout can only be diagnosed during a flare when a joint is hot, swollen, and painful and when a lab test finds uric acid crystals in the affected joint. Talk with a medical professional today if you or a family member has any signs or symptoms of gout.
provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a
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