What is Gout?
Gout is a painful form of arthritis. It is mostly caused by deposits of uric acid in the joints. Uric acid is a naturally formed waste element in the body. The National Institute of Health suggests that anyone can be affected by this disease but it mostly affects men between the age of 40 and 50. Let us take a look at some important information regarding this disease.
Who Gets Gout?
In the United States, more than 8 million individuals are affected by this disease. The disease is commonly seen in men as compared to women. Some women do get gout, usually after menopause. An excess level of uric acid in the blood may increase the risk of gout. But this information is still not verified. Patients with gout are very often detected with low to normal levels of blood uric acid. On the other hand, patients having hyperuricemia do not necessarily develop gout. Gout is generally an inherited disease.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Gout?
Gout generally affects most joints of the body like:
The most commonly affected area in the body due to gout is the base of the big toe. In medical terms it is known as podagra. Acute attacks of gout can cause severe pain in the joints which then result in warmth, inflammation, redness, and tenderness. Intense tenderness causes a lot of pain when a layer over the affected skin is touched.
When the pain is at its peak, the patients can also develop fever. Whether the patient takes medication or not, the pain reduces within a few hours to a couple of days. This arthritis attack keeps recurring over a period of time. Crystals of uric acid deposited in sacs filled with fluid around the joints cause selling and pain in the affected area. In certain cases, gout causes a severe type of inflammation of the joint that is very similar to rheumatoid arthritis.
What Causes Gout?
The natural inability to handle normal levels of uric acid in the body is a major cause of gout. There are other factors also that cause this genetic disease. Obesity can increase the risk of gout. Those who have high blood pressure, improper kidney functions, and drink alcohol moderately or heavily are also prone to gout. Individuals who experience excessive weight gain in their youth or use certain medications can also develop this disease.
Those who are already at risk of developing gout may increase their chance of developing this disease in certain conditions. Some of the causes can be as follows:
- Excessive eating
- Joint injury
- Alcohol intake
If an individual has undergone surgery in the recent past, he/she may develop gout attacks. This is because in preparation of the surgery most patients go through an imbalance in body fluid due to lack of fluid intake before and after the surgery.
What are the Types of Gout?
There are basically two types of gout. The first one is known as acute gout. This involves only one joint being affected or a few joints in most cases. The gout attack generally reduces after three to sometimes ten days. Swelling, tenderness, and redness are seen in the joints that are affected. More than fifty percent individuals who get acute gout attacks are likely to have another attack within a year.
Chronic gout is the second type of gout. This is when the disease is left untreated and the continual inflammation causes the soft tissues and joints to be damaged completely. It is also known as tophaceous gout. This condition can be avoided with timely medical treatment.
Scientists suggest that intake of red meat or animal protein in high levels can cause an increased risk of gout. Research also suggests that vitamin C and calcium intake in the diet can lower uric acid levels and prevent gout attacks. The latest medications can also help in eliminating excessive uric acid levels in the urine.
What are the Prognosis and Preventions?
To prevent the recurring bouts of painful gout attacks patients must keep their uric acid levels below 6.0 mg/dL and maintain it at that level. It is important to monitor levels of blood uric acid regularly as the disease not only cause severe pain but can also permanently damage the bone and cartilage.
Gout can be prevented in a number of ways. One of the main methods to prevent this disease is by diet control. But for some people diet alone does not prove enough. For such people medications can help prevent gout attacks. Also, the individual must maintain a healthy and ideal body weight. Proper hydration is also essential to reduce attacks of gout. Avoiding medications that increase the levels of blood uric acid causing hyperuricemia is necessary. These medications include:
- Low-dose aspirin
- Nicotinic acid
- Thiazide diuretics
How to Manage Gout Joint Pain?
For effective pain management it is important to go through systematic treatment. When you contact your physician during the gout attack, he/she will prescribe some common anti-inflammatories and pain relievers to provide immediate pain relief.
Then the root cause of the pain which is usually high uric acid is treated. It is important for you to take adequate bed rest. If you remain very active during the attack, it may result in a subsequent attack.