Gout is a condition that affects over 3 million people in the United States. If you are one of the many people who suffer from this condition, then you know it can be a very painful ailment that can often come on quite suddenly. But what exactly is gout, and what causes it?
Gout is a type of complex arthritis that leads to pain and swelling in the joints caused by a condition known as hyperuricemia.
Hyperuricemia occurs when an abundance of uric acid is produced in the body, or the kidneys cannot filter the acid quickly enough. When this happens, the acid builds up, forming sharp urate crystals that eventually settle in the joints, causing pain and inflammation.
Uric acid is created when the body breaks down purines, which are found in many foods. Common foods that are high in purines include red meat, organ meats, and seafood, as well as food or beverages containing high levels of fructose, such as juice or soda.
Other factors can contribute to the likelihood of developing gout, including being overweight, drinking too much alcohol, having diabetes, congestive heart failure or high blood pressure, and taking certain medications. Men are also at a higher risk of developing gout.
Symptoms of Gout
Gout most commonly affects a person’s big toes, but it can also cause inflammation and swelling in other joints, including knees, elbows, fingers, wrists, and ankles.
When a patient is experiencing a flare-up, they will notice their joints becoming swollen and tender, and redness and warmth are common. Often, the pain can feel so severe during an attack that the lightest touch feels unbearable. Flare-ups most often occur overnight and tend to come on suddenly.
It’s important to treat gout as early as possible. If left untreated, patients can progress to developing kidney stones or tophi, which are nodules of crystal deposits that develop around the area of the gout attacks. The inflammation can also cause permanent damage to the joints and surrounding tissues.
Diagnosis, Treatment, and Management
When seeking a diagnosis, it’s important to know that gout can only be diagnosed during a flare-up. Your doctor will conduct a physical assessment to look for swollen joints and redness, as well as a build-up of uric acid crystals in the affected areas.
Gout can be managed with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to manage pain and inflammation during flare-ups. There are also prescription medications that can be used to reduce or block the production of uric acid within the body or improve your body’s ability to process the uric acid.
Along with changes in diet to avoid foods high in purines and increasing physical activity to maintain a healthy weight and reduce pressure on the joints, these treatment options can help alleviate gout symptoms and reduce the likelihood of recurring flare-ups.
If you believe you are experiencing gout symptoms, reach out to a doctor for an evaluation. Advanced Rheumatology of Houston has over ten years of experience treating chronic rheumatological conditions, including arthritis, gout, and osteoarthritis. Call (281) 766-7886 or fill out our contact form to request an appointment, so we can create the best treatment plan for your unique situation.