Gout; What it Is, When It Happens, How To Treat It
Gout is a form of arthritis that can happen at any time. Indeed, you may suddenly experience severe attacks of pain, swelling, and redness in the joints, and most often at the joint at the base of the big toe. The affected joint is hot, swollen and tender; such that the slightest weight feels intolerable.
Gout happens when there is an excess of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid forms in the body when purine, a chemical compound, breaks down. Purines exist in high amounts in meat, poultry, and seafood. Your body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines — substances that are found naturally in your body.
Usually, uric acid is dissolved in the blood and is excreted from the body through the urine. If too much uric acid is produced, or not enough is excreted, it builds up and forms needle-like crystals that trigger inflammation and pain in the joints.
Senior citizens, starting at age 60+ have the highest incidence for gout.
The symptoms of gout almost always occur suddenly, and often at night. They include:
- Intense joint pain. Gout usually affects the large joint of your big toe, but it can occur in any joint. Other commonly affected joints include the ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and fingers. The pain is likely to be most severe within the first four to 12 hours after it begins.
- Lingering discomfort. After the most severe pain subsides, some joint discomfort may last from a few days to a few weeks. Later attacks are likely to last longer and affect more joints.
- Inflammation and redness. The affected joint or joints become swollen, tender, warm and red.
- Limited range of motion. As gout progresses, you may not be able to move your joints normally.
Gout: Risk Factors
Uric acid is the culprit and you are more likely to get this illness if you have high levels in your body. Factors that increase uric acid levels include:
- Diet. Eating a diet rich in meat and seafood and drinking beverages sweetened with fruit sugar (fructose) increase levels. Moreover, alcohol consumption, especially of beer, will increase your risk.
- Obesity. If you’re overweight, your body produces more uric acid and your kidneys have a more difficult time eliminating uric acid.
- Medical conditions. Your risks increase if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart and kidney diseases.
- Certain medications. The use of thiazide diuretics used to treat hypertension and low-dose aspirin also can increase uric acid levels.
- Family history of gout. If it’s in the family, you’re more likely to develop the disease.
- Age. Gout occurs more often in men, primarily because women tend to have lower uric acid levels. Men are also more likely to develop gout between the ages of 30 and 50. Senior citizens, starting at age 60+ have the highest incidence for gout.
- Surgery or trauma. Recent surgery or trauma is associated with an increased risk of a gout attack.
Gout: Prevention Tactics
- Drink plenty of fluids. Stay well-hydrated, including plenty of water. Limit how many sweetened beverages you drink, especially those sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.
- Limit alcohol. Talk with your doctor about whether any amount or type of alcohol is safe for you. Recent evidence suggests that beer may be particularly likely to increase the risk of gout symptoms, especially in men.
- Eat low-fat dairy products. Low-fat dairy products may actually have a protective effect against gout.
- Watch your weight. Lose weight( gradually) if you can as it can decrease uric acid levels in your body.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs include Advil, Motrin, Aleve, Indocin, and Celebrex. Be careful as these drugs carry risks of stomach pain, bleeding and ulcers.
- Colchicine. Your doctor may recommend colchicine, a pain reliever that reduces gout pain. Side effects are nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
- Corticosteroids. Corticosteroid medications, such as the drug prednisone, may control gout inflammation and pain.Corticosteroids are used only in people with gout who can’t take anything else. Side effects include mood changes, increased blood sugar levels and high blood pressure.