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Health A to Z

Gout Facts That You Should Be Aware Of

Dr. Uma M

With timely diagnosis, treatment and a good lifestyle, gout can be defeated.

Gout is a condition caused by the build-up of uric acid in the blood. It affects the feet, usually at the joint in the base of the big toe, but can also cause pain in other joints such as your ankles, knees and fingers. This results in swelling of the joints, sudden and intense pain.

Symptoms

Swelling and pain in the joint (mostly the big toe) is generally the first symptom of gout. The symptoms appear in one joint at a time but if left untreated, can lead to worsening pain and joint damage. Delay in treatment can lead to other serious health risks such as increase in joint pain other health issues like high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes and kidney stones.

Causes

Gout occurs when urate crystals accumulate in your joint, causing the inflammation and intense pain of a gout attack. Urate crystals can form when you have high levels of uric acid in your blood. Your body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines — substances that are found naturally in your body.

Purines are also found in certain foods, such as steak, organ meats, and seafood. Other foods also promote higher levels of uric acid, such as alcoholic beverages, especially beer, and drinks sweetened with fruit sugar (fructose).

Normally, uric acid dissolves in your blood and passes through your kidneys into your urine. But sometimes either your body produces too much uric acid or your kidneys excrete too little uric acid. When this happens, uric acid can build up, forming sharp, needle-like urate crystals in a joint or surrounding tissue that cause pain, inflammation, and swelling.

Medical triggers: 

  • Joint injury
  • Recent surgery
  • Certain medications like drugs for high blood pressure, heart disease or edema(swelling in the body)
  • Infection
  • Chemotherapy

Lifestyle triggers:

  • Eating foods rich in purines (red meat or seafood)
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Crash dieting or fasting
  • Having too many fizzy drinks
  • Alcoholism

Risk factors

These factors increase your chances of getting gout:

  • Being in the middle-aged group
  • Menopausal women
  • If you inherit the genes or have familial hypertriglyceridemia
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • If you eat too much red meat or certain seafood
  • Certain medications like cyclosporine or diuretics
  • If you have hypertension, diabetes, thyroid disorder or kidney disease

Diagnosis of gout

High levels of uric acid in the blood does not always mean that one will develop gout. However, to rule out the potential cause of the joint pain, the doctor may perform a blood test to measure the uric acid levels in the blood. The diagnosis may also involve taking fluid out of the affected joint and find out if uric acid crystals are present [if required] Additionally, an X-ray, ultrasound or MRI may be performed to analyze the soft tissue or bone.

Treatment of gout

The doctor will prescribe medications to lower your uric acid levels and to help with the pain management as required. Apart from the medicines, you will be advised to drink plenty of water, rest well and stress less. The maintenance of a good diet with decreased protein content and reducing alcohol intake may also be advised. An ice pack should also be applied to the affected area.

Some self-care tips

  • Have a heart-healthy diet
  • Vitamin C supplements are advised
  • Avoid foods that trigger gout attacks
  • Regular physical activity is a must
  • Limit processed food & too much salt
  • Limit sugary beverages
  • Decrease or stop alcohol consumption

Always consult a doctor before opting for any new diet, supplement or exercise. With timely diagnosis, treatment and a good lifestyle, gout can be defeated.

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