Gout: Causes and Treatments

Treatments for gout are commonly aimed at the three main aspects which characterize this condition: overproduction of uric acid, joint inflammation and swelling, and pain.

The good news is, however, this form of acute arthritis is highly responsive to treatment and is often completely relieved within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

What is gout?

Gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid. This build-up can be brought on by either an overproduction of uric acid, or normally-produced levels which aren’t being filtered through the kidneys and passed through the urine.

The overabundance of uric acid produces urate crystals which are deposited in the toe, knee, or ankle joints.

Who gets gout?

It’s important to note not everyone who has elevated uric acid levels will develop gout. However, this condition appears to run in families.

Men are known to be more prone than women to develop gout. However, women who are post-menopausal also seem to have higher occurrences.

What is an acute gout episode?

An acute gout episode is commonly characterized by rapid onset, which often wakes a person from sleep. Many sufferers describe the pain as crushing, throbbing, or excruciating. The joint is usually red in appearance and warm to the touch.

What are the Symptoms of Gout?

Now that you know the answer to your question, “What is gout?” the next step is recognizing the symptoms of gout. Gout flares generally occur at night, out of the blue.  When having a flare, the affected area will become hot, swollen, red, and very tender.

Some folks describe a gout attack as feeling like one’s toe is a volcano that is about to erupt.  Pain in the big toe is the most common symptom of gout, but gout can occur in other parts of the body.

The next most common site for gout is the ankle or foot, followed by the knee, finger, elbow, and wrist. Gout can also occur at more than one site at a time, although it is not common.

What Happens Between Gout Flares?

If you have been diagnosed with gout, it is important to keep your level of uric acid down.  Even though you may not be experiencing a flare of gout, between flares, uric acid can cause crystals to form continually and build up in the joints.

This can lead to future attacks in other areas, constant pain, and the destruction of your joint. For this reason, it is important that you watch your level of uric acid and take steps to keep uric acid within the body low, typically by watching what you eat.

If you have not seen a doctor yet but suspect that you have gout, don’t delay.  Talk with your doctor and learn how to control your uric acid to keep gout under control.

What are the Risk Factors for Gout?

There are certain people or groups of people that are more apt to get gout.  Men between the ages of forty and fifty are more prone to developing gout than women of the same age, but most women will experience gout following menopause.  People who have a family history of gout tend to get gout eventually.

Gout is rarely seen in young adults or children.  If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or kidney problems, you are at an increased risk of developing gout.

What is Gout Progression Like?

Gout is a serious, chronic, and progressive disease; this means that it may worsen over time.  The effects of gout can continue between flares.  Joint damage can be occurring between gout attacks if the level of uric acid in your blood is high.

Uric acid crystals can form in the joints of your feet and hands, as well as in your elbow, ear, and Achilles tendon.  You can suffer long-term chronic pain that will not go away between flares, as well as damage to your joints.  Those with gout that is poorly managed will see limitations in mobility in the joints and tendons that are affected.

Living with Gout

Hopefully, the above has answered your question “what is gout”.  Living with gout means achieving and maintaining a healthy uric acid level.  This is generally defined as a level that is lower than 6 mg/dL, although your doctor may set other treatment goals for your particular needs.

Most treatment plans involve lowering the level of uric acid in the blood via dietary changes.  Pain medication is often prescribed to help alleviate the pain of gout.

Treatment of Gout

Once you understand gout causes, then you can work with your doctor to devise a treatment plan.  If you have ever experienced an attack of gout, you already know that pain control is the most important part of treatment.

Keeping the foot or other affected joint bare and unclothed is usually advised since any covering, shoe, or clothing can serve to aggravate the condition further.  Pain medication is typically from the NSAID line (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory).

Naproxen or ibuprofen is typically prescribed.  Aspirin can actually cause the condition to worsen since it slows the elimination of uric acid within the body.  If you take low-dose aspirin to prevent a heart attack, don’t stop taking it unless directed by your doctor, however.

For severe attacks of gout, injections or other forms of corticosteroid medication may be administered, either via the mouth or injected directly into the joint.  Most doctors try to avoid this treatment option for gout causes since steroids come with several undesired side effects.  There are several prescription medications that have been approved for treating the symptoms of gout, and your doctor will discuss your possible treatment options.

Daily Life with Gout

Gout is a progressive disease, which means that it worsens over time.  The effects of high uric acid and gout linger, even between flares.  Living with gout and managing your gout symptoms involves keeping your uric acid level under control. Diet is a central part of controlling your gout symptoms.

Diets that are high in protein and high in purines are gout causes, or at very least, contribute to the risk of developing gout.  By watching your diet and avoiding food that is high in purines, like sardines, herring, mackerel, and organ meats, as well as yeast.

Reaching and maintaining your ideal weight, avoiding alcohol, and drinking lots of water, can also help to prevent future incidences of gout.

Gout Diet Guide

The gout diet is very much like any healthy eating plan that would be recommended for nearly anyone.  As a bonus, the gout diet can also help you to maintain a healthy weight and avoid other chronic diseases in addition to contributing to better management of your gout.

If you are overweight and have been diagnosed with gout, you should try to lose weight as part of a gout management plan.  Your gout diet should be accompanied by an adequate intake of water to help flush uric acid from the body.  The basic principles of the gout diet include:

  • Limit the amount of meat, fish, and poultry that you take in.  Animal protein is high in purines. Severely limit or avoid foods that are high in purines, like organ meats, anchovies, mackerel, and herring, including red meat, like pork, beef, and lamb.  Steer clear of or limit sparingly seafood, including shrimp, scallops, tuna, and lobster.  Eat no more than four to six ounces of meat, fish, and poultry daily.
  • Avoid or strictly limit alcohol consumption.  Alcohol interferes with your body’s ability to eliminate uric acid.  Beer, in particular, has been linked to attacks of gout.  If you are experiencing a gout attack, avoid drinking alcohol.
  • Avoid or strictly limit sugar intake.  If you eat too much sugar, you leave no room for the healthy foods that you need on a gout diet.  Some studies indicate that sugar can have a direct effect on the level of uric acid in your body.  Sugar is also linked to obesity and some chronic health problems.  Choose natural sweetness in lieu of sugary snacks, such as an apple, banana, or other types of fruit.
  • Go for plant-based protein sources.  The gout diet calls for increasing the protein that you take in by adding more plant-based protein sources to your diets, like legumes and beans.  Cutting back on meat-based protein and eating protein that is derived from plants instead can also help you to cut back on saturated fat, which contributes indirectly to gout and obesity.
  • Opt for complex carbohydrates.  Eat more fruits, veggies, and whole grains.  Avoid carbohydrates and junk foods, like white bread, candy, and cakes.
  • Select dairy products that are either fat-free or low-fat.  Studies indicate that drinking low-fat or skim milk or eating foods that are manufactured using the, like yogurt, can work to reduce gout risk.  Try to take in sixteen to twenty-four ounces of dairy each day.
  • Stay hydrated.  Drink lots of fluids, especially water.  Fluids help to flush uric acid from the body.  Try to take in no less than eight, eight-ounce glasses a day. Some doctors recommend drinking up to sixteen, eight-ounce servings of water each day.

Conclusion

While the gout diet is useful in managing your gout, it is usually not enough, on its own, to treat gout.  You will still need medication from your doctor.  Nonetheless, the gout diet will help to decrease the number of attacks of gout that you experience, and the severity of gout.  If you follow the gout diet and limit your caloric intake, you can improve your general health and enjoy a higher quality of life.

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