WHAT IS IT?
A gout is a complex form of arthritis characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, redness, and tenderness in joints — often the joint at the base of the big toe. Gout can also occur in your feet, ankles, knees, hands, and wrists.
Gout occurs when urate crystals accumulate in a joint, causing inflammation and intense pain. These crystals can form when you have high levels of uric acid in your blood.
Your body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines — substances found naturally in your body, as well as in certain foods, such as steak, organ meats, and seafood. Alcoholic beverages, especially beer, and drinks sweetened with fruit sugar (fructose) may also promote increased uric acid.
Normally, uric acid dissolves in your blood and passes through your kidneys into your urine. But sometimes your body produces too much or your kidneys excrete too little and the acid can accumulate and form sharp, needle-like crystals in the joint or surrounding tissue. An attack of gout can occur suddenly, even waking you up in the middle of the night.
- Intense joint pain. 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, joint discomfort may last from a few days to a few weeks.
- Inflammation and redness. The affected joint or joints become swollen, tender, warm, and red.
- Limited range of motion. Decreased joint mobility may occur as gout progresses.
Your risk of gout is increased if you’re overweight, your diet is high in meat and seafood, you drink a lot of beverages sweetened with fructose, or you drink a lot of alcohol, especially beer. If other members of your family have had gout, you’re also more likely to develop it.
Medications are the main form of treatment for gout. Drugs used to treat attacks and prevent future attacks include Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), Corticosteroids (control pain and inflammation), Xanthine oxidase inhibitors (limit the amount of uric acid).
Certain lifestyle changes can help prevent or reduce gout attacks. Here are some tips that you can try:
- Limit alcoholic beverages and drinks sweetened with fructose.
- Limit foods that are high in purines, such as red meat, organ meats, and seafood.
- Keep your body at a healthy weight.
Certain foods and beverages have been studied for their potential to lower uric acid levels. They include products such as coffee, cherries, and foods high in vitamin C. To date, no study has found enough evidence to encourage their consumption as a possible treatment.
Excerpt From: The Mayo Clinic. “Mayo Clinic A to Z Health Guide”.