Gout has long been referred to as the disease of kings due to its relation to the overindulgence of rich food and drink; however, if you are one of the many who suffer from this arthritic condition, you know that there is nothing regal about it.

What Is Gout?
Gout is a form of arthritis that is caused when uric acid crystallizes and forms into needle-like structures located in the joints. Uric acid is the byproduct that is formed when the body breaks down a chemical component called purines. Purines are found in such foods as anchovies, sardines, herring, organ meats, asparagus and mushrooms. Under normal conditions, purines will break down in the bloodstream and travel to the kidneys where they exit the body via urination. For people with gout, the uric acid accumulates in the joints and forms these jagged crystals which can cause intense pain and swelling in the joints.

What Are The Symptoms Of Gout?

The onset of symptoms for these attacks tends to come on suddenly and often violently. Exacerbation typically occurs at night and can literally wake a person out of his or her sleep. Some of the symptoms of gout include, but are not limited to the following:

– Joint pain: The joint located in the big toe is most commonly affected; however, gout can occur in the joints of the feet, ankle, knees, hands and wrists. The most intense pain usually takes place within the first 24 hours, but can linger anywhere from a few days and up to a few weeks. Additionally, the skin covering the affected joint(s) tends to be red and swollen.

Who Gets Gout?

In addition to the overindulgence of certain foods, there are a number of other factors that play a significant role in making a person more susceptible to developing gout. It is believed that gout strikes people who are obese. Additionally, people who drink excessively may be at an increased risk of developing gout at some point in their lives.

Furthermore, gout typically affects those people who have chronic health conditions such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes.

Statistics reveal that gout affects more men than women. Women have a higher chance of developing this condition after menopause. It is believed that gout is a hereditary illness.

It has been reported that certain medications can potentially cause gout. Some of these medications include, but are not limited to, the following:

Diuretics: This class of medication is used to treat high blood pressure
Cyclosporine: Prescribed for the prevention of organ rejection following transplant
Certain cancer medications
Pyrazinamide and thambutol: Prescribed for the treatment of tuberculosis

Can Gout Be Treated?

Medication is available to treat the joint pain and swelling associated with gout. Symptoms should begin to dissipate within a few days following treatment. To optimize treatment, it is recommended that you limit your intake of animal proteins, and alcohol should be avoided completely. Bed rest is advised during an attack of gout. Application of an ice pack to the affected area may help reduce swelling and pain. Keep the affected joints uncovered as the weight of clothing and blankets may increase pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen may help to minimize pain and reduce inflammation.

How Can I Avoid An Attack?

Certain lifestyle changes can be made in order to avoid repeat attacks of gout. First, your physician may prescribe a medication that is used to flush the uric acid from the joint areas, which will, in turn, reduce the amount of swelling and decrease the amount of uric acid that is in your body. Aspirin may render these medications ineffective; therefore, if you are taking a low-dose aspirin therapy, check with your doctor to see if the medications can be taken at separate times of the day.

If you are overweight, having gout is a great incentive to lose weight. In so doing, you will lessen the risk of experiencing future attacks. If you have untreated hypertension, high cholesterol or diabetes, speak with your doctor about which course of therapy would be best for you to pursue. Additionally, you may request to be placed on a low-salt, low-fat diet in order to avoid repeat attacks.

If you drink excessively, consider reducing your alcohol intake and limit your consumption of foods rich in purines. Increasing the amount of water you drink each day will also help to keep your system free from uric acid.

If gout is left untreated, you run the risk of attacks that can last for days. The more attacks you have, the more damage is done to the joints. If you have experienced attacks of gout for an extended period of time, uric acid crystals may begin to form deposits under the skin creating lumps. This condition is called tophi. Tophi typically forms under the skin of your toes, fingers, elbows and hands. Furthermore, you also run the risk of developing kidney stones and even kidney disease when crystals are allowed to build up in the urinary tract system. Finally, if gout is left untreated for long periods of time, the bone surrounding the affected joint may become damaged and even destroyed.

These lifestyle alterations are a small price to pay in light of the bigger picture. Gout can greatly affect a person’s quality of life; therefore, taking these preventative steps can lessen the likelihood of experiencing repeat attacks.

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