It’s a relatively common illness in Southeast Asia, but what is gout, really? Gout can cause pain that ranges from mild to severe.
The good news is that there are plenty of treatment options available, as well as ways you can prevent episodes altogether.
This article contains all the information you need about what is gout, how to diagnose and treat it, as well as tips on how you can avoid getting it.
What is gout and how does it affect the body
Gout is a form of arthritis that affects the joints. When uric acid builds up in your bloodstream, crystals are produced and then deposited at certain points on the body such as big toes, elbows, or knees.
The more you have these deposits build up in your system, the more they can lead to various gout symptoms including:
- Increased pain levels
- Swelling around those areas where there are already deposits present (which can be very painful)
- Extreme tiredness
- Stiffness in joints
It is important to treat it early on in order to help prevent the condition from worsening. If left untreated, this disease can have serious consequences such as limping and swelling when episodes occur. This pain doesn’t just affect people who are already living with a diagnosis of gout, but it also worsens their symptoms which leads them into an even more painful situation.
Here is a video showing what actually happens during a gout attack (and why it can feel so painful):
Who is at risk
Anybody can get it. Doctors believe that they understand what causes gout, but it is still unclear why some people develop this condition and not others.
However, there are a variety of risk factors for developing gout including alcohol consumption (especially wine), being overweight or obese, having type II diabetes, family history of high uric acid levels in your bloodstream (hyperuricemia).
A diet rich in purines may also be a risk factor because these substances will increase serum concentrations thereby increasing the likelihood of precipitation into crystals which may lead to the inflammation caused by an attack on joints during movement.
How to diagnose gout
The most common symptoms are sudden pain in the joint that is often red, swollen or inflamed, and hot to touch. The most common joints for gout are in the feet or hands.
A person will usually experience intense pain at night when they go to sleep due to decreased circulation while resting; it may also wake them up at various times during the night due to an increase in uric acid production from medications (or other reasons).
Other signs include making lifestyle changes such as avoiding exercise or going out on weekends because of increased risk of flare-ups from being inactive erythema – commonly known as “redness”. Gout can be diagnosed by determining if a person has a high level of uric acid in the blood.
Doctors will usually identify whether or not you have gout by seeing if you display symptoms such as inflammation on your joints (usually in your big toe), sudden onset pain, fever at night with no other apparent illness, and tender red nodules under the skin near affected joints.
Some people also experience a feeling of warmth when they eat foods high in purines – like seafood – because these types of food break down into uric acid during digestion.
A doctor may order tests for further diagnoses, such as a blood test, urinalysis, or x-ray. If the person has crystals in their urine and an elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), they most likely have gout.
Gout can also arise from the urate crystals which form in our joints. Sometimes, these same unhealthy crystals build up inside of our kidneys causing kidney stones and other related problems.
Treatments for gout – medications, diet, lifestyle changes
For treatment options for people with mild to moderate symptoms of gout, doctors may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen to help reduce pain and inflammation from attacks.
However, if you’re experiencing more severe symptoms that are not responding well to NSAIDS treatment, then your doctor will probably recommend injecting medications called colchicine directly into joints affected by gouty arthritis.
Treatment for gout can also include dietary changes, such as avoiding alcohol and foods high in purines (like red meats), or changing your diet to focus on alkaline-producing foods like vegetables. If you suffer from uric acid kidney stones, your doctor may recommend a low protein diet that will not increase the amount of urine production.
Lifestyle changes might be recommended if someone has an underlying condition – this could include stopping smoking or losing weight.
How to prevent gout
To prevent future occurrences of gout flares – consider changing what you eat. Some dietary changes that may be recommended for people with gout are avoiding high purine foods (like red meats), or changing your diet to focus on alkaline-producing foods like vegetables.
There are many natural remedies available for people with symptoms of gout at home. Some common treatments are:
- Drinking apple cider vinegar mixed with filtered water before meals
- Consuming honey while fasting overnight to reduce inflammation and pain
- Taking cherry juice before morning meal to help with kidney function
Foods to avoid gout
There are some foods that you should avoid if you have been diagnosed with gout. These include fish that is heavy in omega-six fatty acids (salmon and swordfish for example), berries, or sweet cherries which can be high in purines.
It’s best to stay away from alcohol too because this will only aggravate your symptoms. Beer might seem like a harmless drink now and then. But when coupled with other things you eat during the day it could lead to an episode of gout.
How to live with this chronic condition
Living with it can be uncomfortable and at times debilitating. For more severe cases, doctors may recommend medication to treat your gout and relieve pain.
The first thing to think about is what medication side effects or other symptoms of your illness that you may experience during treatment. Your doctor may provide some guidance on this, so it’s a good idea just to ask them outright before the medicine arrives at your door.
A few common examples are: nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea for those taking medications with strong anti-inflammatory properties; high blood sugar levels in diabetics being treated with steroids such as prednisone or cortisone; weight gain, mood changes, and disrupted sleep patterns when using certain medicines including NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
As a form of arthritis, gout can worsen over time and become extremely painful if left untreated. Luckily, there are plenty of treatment options for people with gout. It ranges from medication prescribed by a doctor to home remedies.
If you think you might have gout, get in touch with Smarter Health today. You can arrange for an appointment with a specialist to discuss getting diagnosed and recommended treatment options.