Gout is a type of arthritis and it is caused by uric acid in the blood. It is normally harmless as the body produces it, most of it is excreted through waste. However, in some cases it builds up and when the levels become too high it creates grit like crystals that collect around the joint, and irritate the joint tissue. This causes swelling, inflammation, and pain.
This is a gout attack and results in severe attacks of pain as swelling worsens in one, or more, joints. In order to beat the attack quickly, an anti-inflammatory painkiller is taken. There are plenty of lifestyle factors that could increase your risk of gout: obesity, poor diet, alcohol, and sugary drinks. Gout attacks can be prevented by allopurinol and/or Vitamin C.
The majority of gout sufferers have kidneys that function normally otherwise, however in the case of uric acid are unable to keep the levels in check.
There are a number of factors which could cause the build-up of uric acid:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- A Vitamin C deficiency
- Drinks high in fructose (that includes fruit juices, as well as soda)
- Some foods such as sardines, mussels, herring, heart, and yeast extracts
- Diuretics, aspirin, and chemo medicines
- Psoriasis and blood disorders
- Illnesses including: kidney damage, high blood pressure, diabetes, bone marrow disorders, vascular disease, enzyme defects, and lipid disorders
Gout affects around 1 in 200 adults and men are more likely to suffer from it. While gout typically occurs in middle age, it can affect younger people. There is also evidence that it runs in the family, this appears to be the case in 1 in 5 cases.
It occurs in attacks, and an attack can develop over a number of hours. It generally affects just one joint and it is the base of the big toe that is the most frequent victim. Saying that, any joint can fall victim to gout, and more than one joint can be affected. It generally starts with swelling and skin becoming red and inflamed. If it is left untreated, an attack can last up to 10 days.
While gout isn’t particularly serious, it is incredibly painful. If you have recurring attacks, then it can cause permanent joint damage. In some cases, the crystalized uric acid form kidney stones, or cause kidney damage.
The general tactic to treat a gout attack is to raise the affected limb in order to reduce swelling. Take anti-inflammatory painkillers and ice the affected area for 20 minutes, and repeat as required. Ensure you wait until the affected area has returned to normal temperate before applying ice again.
Some lifestyle changes that can help you prevent gout attacks:
If you have overweight, try to lose weight, but do not opt for a high protein diet, or diets that involve starvation. Ensure you eat a well-balanced diet, and avoid rich foods. If you’re an alcohol or sugary soft drink consumer, then reduce the amount you are drinking. If you take any medications regularly check the side effects to see whether they cause gout. Ensure you’re drinking plenty of water, and have your blood pressure checked annually.