What a sufferer needs to know.
What is gout?
Credit: James Gillray, 1799Gout is one of the oldest recorded diseases. "The Gout" has been called the "disease of kings" or "rich man's disease" because it was believed that only the wealthy could afford to eat, and possibly over indulge in, the kinds of foods and drink that were most commonly believed to cause gout. This early belief was, of course, wrong. Anybody could contract gout.
Today, it is known that gout is a form of arthritis and is commonly referred to as gouty arthritis. Gout usually - but not always, affects the feet and most commonly the great toe. Gout is also considered one of the most painful forms of arthritis. Gout occurs when too much uric acid builds up in the body. With this uric acid build-up, one of three things tend to occur.
- Crystals form in the affected joint
- Uric acid can for deposits under the skin. This condition is called tophi.
- Kidney stones can form
Causes and Risk factors of gout
As stated earlier, gout is caused by the build-up of uric acid in the body. This build-up is caused by one of three conditions.
- Too much uric acid is produced within the body
- Consumption of too much “high purine” food
- The body’s inability to adequately rid itself of uric acid – which may indicate a possible medical condition
Diet can play a significant role in whether someone contracts gout but diet isn’t the only consideration. Gout can be hereditary. Some other common contributing factors include:
- Being overweight
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Eating too many purine-rich foods
- Taking certain medications
- Being a male – Men are nine times more likely than women to contract gout
Symptoms and signs of gout
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A gout attack usually happens in a single joint and is accompanied by symptoms of severe pain in the affected joint and swelling of the surrounding soft tissue. Gout attacks usually occur in the body's joints such as the big toes, ankles, knees, wrists, and fingers but can sometimes affect non-joint areas as well.
An attack is commonly accompanied by swelling around the affected joint, severe pain, joint stiffness, and the skin of the affected area is often warm to the touch. It is common for gout attacks to happen during the night while the sufferer is sleeping. The pain associated with gout is usually sudden and intense. The weight of just a bed-sheet is often too much to bear and sometimes the pain is so bad that an emergency room visit may be required for quicker relief.
Treatments for gout
At the onset of their first gout attack, most people seek medical treatment because of the severity of the pain. Reducing the symptoms of an acute attack is the primary aim of treatment. Indomethacin, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) is the most commonly prescribed medication for acute gout attacks. A complete health history will be taken by the doctor before any NSAID is prescribed. For those unable to take NSAIDs, Colchicine is usually the alternative medication prescribed.
For those suffering repeated incidents of gout, gout treatment guidelines are aimed at managing the chronic condition. The most common medications prescribed for this course of treatment are: Allopurinol and febuxostat (Uloric). These medications block uric acid production in the body. There are side affects with both of these medications. Possible rash and/or low blood counts for Allopurinol and rash, nausea, and reduced liver function for Uloric are the most common.
Drinking plenty of water is a primary ongoing preventative measure for gout sufferers. Also, limiting sugary drinks and sodas can help stave off ongoing gout attacks.
Limiting or avoiding alcoholic beverages altogether would be a good course of action. Beer seems to be the alcoholic beverage with the most impact on gout attacks.
Limit the intake of high purine foods such as red meats, fish, shellfish, organ meats, poultry, eggs, legumes, asparagus, mushrooms, cauliflower, spinach, oatmeal, bran, wheat germ, whole grain breads, and cereals are all foods that gout sufferers should limit intake of.
Maintaining a healthy weight is another important factor in limiting the occurrence of gout.