Understanding Gout

Gout occurs when there is too much uric acid build up inside the body. Though it’s not known what triggers gout but it often happens in the middle of the night, and the pain in your big toe can be so bad that you can’t even stand the pressure of a blanket over your foot.  Sometimes gout strikes in some joints, including knees, ankles, elbows, thumbs, or fingers.

Gout is actually a form of arthritis that causes intense pain, swelling, and stiffness in a joint; classically, it affects the joint in the big toe. It is the body’s reaction to irritating crystal deposits in the joints. The pain can be intense, but treatment usually works very well. Mild cases may be controlled by diet alone. Recurring attacks of gout may require long-term medication to prevent damage to bone and cartilage and deterioration of the kidneys.

What Causes Gout?

The most common factor that increases your chance of gout and gout attacks is excessive consumption of alcohol, especially beer. It used to be known as “the disease of kings” since it was mainly seen in wealthy men who drank and ate too much.

Age and gender is a factor as men produce more uric acid than women; though women’s levels of uric acid approach those of men after the menopause.

Signs and Symptoms of Gout

Gout usually becomes symptomatic suddenly without warning, often in the middle of the night. The main symptoms are intense joint pain that subsides to discomfort, inflammation, and redness.

Treatment and Prevention

Commonly used medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), colchicine, or corticosteroids. These reduce inflammation and pain in the areas affected by gout and are usually taken orally.

Example of NSAIDS are aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil) and indomethacin (Indocin).

Medications can also be used to either reduce the production of uric acid (xanthine oxidase inhibitors such as allopurinol) or improve the kidney’s ability to remove uric acid from the body (probenecid).

Lifestyle and dietary guidelines that can be followed to protect against future flares or prevent gout from occurring in the first instance:

  • maintain a high fluid intake (2-4 liters a day)
  • avoid alcohol
  • maintain a healthy body weight
  • eat a balanced diet
  • limit fish, meat, and poultry intake