Gout is a type of arthritis, characterized by pain, stiffness, and inflammation of one of the joints. If not treated, gouty arthritis may result in recurrence of the inflammation affecting tendons, joints, and other tissues. Gout is more commonly seen in men than in women.
Causes of Gout
Gout is a result caused by the presence of abnormally high levels of uric acid in the blood, a condition referred to as hyperuricemia.
This may be caused by:
- making more amounts of uric acid
- the body not being able to get rid of the uric acid
The excess amount of uric acid may accumulate and form hard uric acid crystals in the joints. The building up of uric acid crystals in the joints causes the joints to swell up and become inflamed.
The risk of developing gouty arthritis increases with:
- Increased consumption of alcohol
- High intake of meat and fish that contain purines
- Kidney diseases
- Leukemia and other blood cancers
- Medications that interfere with the removal of uric acid from the body
Symptoms of gout
The most common symptom of gout is the swelling, tenderness, and a sharp pain in the toe, which usually occurs during the night. The pain may be noted in the foot, ankle, and knees. This may be associated with fever. The pain, often referred to as excruciating by the patients, may go away within a few days, but may recur after some time. Patients with chronic gout arthritis may have pain and other symptoms for most of the time and some of them may have loss of motion of the limb at the joints.
Physical examination of the symptoms helps doctors to diagnose the seriousness of the condition. Sample analysis of the synovial fluid from the joint is used to check for the presence of uric acid crystals in the fluid. A blood test is also used to measure the amount of uric acid in the blood.
Treatment of Gout
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, naproxen, or indomethacin are usually used to alleviate the symptoms. Initially, doctors advise the patients to have stronger doses.
- Strong painkillers such as codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone are used to alleviate pain.
- Corticosteroids are given to prevent the attack. Pain is relieved by taking a shot of steroids in the inflamed joint.
- The levels of uric acid in the blood can be reduced by taking daily doses of allopurinol or probenecid. This is recommended if the attacks are very severe, or when the patient gets several attacks in a year. It is also advised when uric acid stones are found in the kidney or when the joints are damaged.
Lifestyle changes are also helpful in controlling the condition to a large extent.
The major changes include:
- Reducing the intake of purine-rich foods
- Avoiding fatty foods
- Having enough of carbohydrates in the diet
- Avoiding quick weight loss