What is Gout?
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A Brief Overview on Gout
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with gout, or if you think you may have it, you might be looking for gout information. You can find what you’re looking for in the following article, from what causes gout, to the symptoms of gout, to how to treat gout.
So what is gout, you ask? Gout is a very common form of arthritis, affecting around 8.3 million Americans. It affects mainly men between the ages of 15 and 75. Gout can occur in women, but is most common in women past the onset of menopause. Several factors can influence a person’s risk for developing gout, including obesity, high blood pressure, high purine consumption and certain medications, like niacin, pyrazinamide, ethambutol and aspirin. Leukemia and lymphoma can also cause high levels of uric acid in the blood. If you have hypothyroidism, you may be at a higher risk of developing gout. It may also have a genetic component, meaning that if someone in your family has it, you will be more likely to get it, too.
Gout is caused by excess uric acid in the blood, which is also known as hyperuricemia. Uric acid is formed naturally by the body when it processes purines found in the food we consume. Purines are found mainly in animal products. A normally functioning body can eliminate excess uric acid through the kidneys and urine. However, some bodies are unable to do this, causing hyperuricemia. Conversely, some people produce too much uric acid. Either way, when there is too much uric acid in the blood, it can build up in the joints in the form of crystals. When this happens, the immune system sends white blood cells to the affected area, sending messages to the brain that cause inflammation characterized by pain, redness, swelling and heat in the affected joint. This is known as an acute attack of gout.
If these acute attacks aren’t managed, gout can cause permanent joint damage or kidney dysfunction. The first step in managing gout involves treating the acute attack. Taking anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen or naproxen, can reduce the inflammation, usually within 24 hours. If that doesn’t work, a doctor can prescribe a corticosteroid, which can be taken orally or be injected directly into the affected joint.
Once the inflammation of an acute attack has subsided, future attacks must be prevented. This is done using methods to reduce the amount of uric acid in the blood. There are 3 main types of medication prescribed for gout. Uricosuric agents help the body eliminate excess uric acid through the kidneys. Xanthine oxidase inhibitors cause the body to produce less uric acid. Lastly, colchicine may be used to help keep flares at bay during treatment.
Aside from medication, lifestyle changes can help immensely in preventing gout attacks. The main thing is to avoid foods and beverages that are high in purines. These foods include red meat, organ meat, seafood and alcohol. Also, consuming foods that fight inflammation and help reduce uric acid levels can help ward off attacks. These foods include berries, cherries and citrus fruits. Also, dehydration can aggravate gout, so drink at least 8 cups of water per day to remain adequately hydrated and avoid caffeinated beverages, which can contribute to dehydration.
The gout information contained in this article should not replace a visit to your doctor. If you suspect you have gout or are struggling to manage your gout, please contact your healthcare provider.