Healthy Living

Is Gout Serious?

Is Gout Serious?

Gout is serious both in the short-term as well as the long term. The gout attack as the stand-alone episode of pain can be very severe. The pain and the discomfort experienced by the individual are debilitating. It is unbearable to move the joint or even to touch it. Although, it may subside automatically in 10 to 12 days, but it is difficult to go through the intervening period without painkillers. Any negligence in the treatment of the initial episodes can have serious consequences over a period of time.

A condition is usually considered serious when the potential long-term effects are dangerous, even though the initial symptoms may be mild. For example, Alzheimer’s disease usually has mild initial symptoms, and yet it is still considered serious because of the long-term effects and the fact that there is no cure. As for gout, it fits both of those criteria in that the potential long-term effects can be very serious and there is still no medication. Sure, there are drugs that can help you to manage the disease and limit the symptoms, but the process remains to be a lifelong struggle without a permanent cure.

To understand just how serious gout can be, you may have to consider both the long term and short term effects:

Short-Term Effects of Gout

Gout attacks usually present with severe pain in the joints that comes on suddenly and may last for a few minutes before subsiding. The pain can be so severe that gout is considered among the diseases with the worst pain you can experience. What’s worse is that the pain can develop in the middle of the night without warning, causing you to lose sleep.

The pain is often followed by an inflammation in the affected joint which appears as a huge red bulge around the joint. This swollen area is also very hot and tender to the touch and may restrict your movement.

Even if no medication is sought, the pain and the swelling will eventually decline. In most of the cases of gout, a second or subsequent attack will follow after 6 to 8 months.

Long-Term Effects of Gout

Many individuals make the mistake of ignoring the first attack of gout. It is highly probable considering the fact that the symptoms disappear completely after a fortnight. This is when gout catches the patient off guard. While you may be thinking that the worst of your horror is over, the real trouble is brewing up inside your body. If the proper medication is not taken after the initial attack, gout returns in more than sixty percent of the cases.

The recurrent attacks are more severe and prolonged. The intensity of the pain may increase and they may take longer to subside. With time, the frequency of attacks increases. Gout is generally a monoarticular infection. This means that it affects one joint at a time. The small bones in the feet are at greater risk of contracting gout. However, in chronic cases, the infection may spread to several joints in the same limb. It may also start affecting the upper extremities.

In untreated individuals, the level of uric acid in the body keeps increasing. The uric acid crystallizes to form monosodium urate crystals in the joint fluid. Over a period of time, the crystals increase in size and start scratching the cartilage of the bone surrounding it. This may affect the mobility of the affected joint. Regular friction against the cartilage may result in irreparable damage to the joint tissue and bone structure. Bone erosion can cause joint dislocation and permanent immobility in a few cases. Surgery or other corrective procedures may be required to resolve the issue.

The joint isn’t the only place where uric acid crystals are deposited. In chronic cases, the crystals start accumulating under the skin around the joints. These deposits of uric acid crystals outside the joint are called Tophi. They appear as small painless nodules under the skin. These white or yellow masses may spread to other parts of the body including hands, feet, and even the pinna. Sometimes a creamy discharge may appear from the tophi. They will gradually affect the surrounding tissue and eventually even destroy it. Tophi can cause severe psychological damage to a person’s psyche as they start affecting the appearance. If the tophi are formed around a joint, they affect the tendons and the joint itself, causing permanent damage to the joint.

The kidney doesn’t come out unscathed either. The kidney is responsible for removing excess amounts of uric acid from the body. Due to the high levels of uric acid in the body, the excess may start depositing in the kidneys to form stones. The uric acid stones in the kidney cannot be detected easily through an x-ray, making diagnosis difficult. As the size of these stones increases, they may cause permanent damage to the kidney tissue. They also start interfering with the normal functioning of the kidney. Symptoms appear when the stones descend to the urethra causing intense pain. Lack of timely treatment can cause kidney failure. There are several studies that have concluded that gout increases an individual's risk to heart and coronary diseases. The uric acid starts accumulating in the arteries forming blockages. Some of the other complications include cataract, dry eye syndrome, and uric acid deposits in the lung.

Psychologically speaking, gout can take a toll on an individual. The dread of not knowing when the next gout attack will happen may cause you to be overly anxious and unsettled. Difficulty in movement and the overall impact of the condition may start affecting the patient’s mood. The individual may succumb to depression when the disease starts affecting their personal and professional life.

There is still no known treatment for Gout. It can only be controlled by medication and changes in lifestyle. These precautionary measures continue throughout life. Granted, the long-term effects of gout can be avoided with proper care, but the condition will always hang over the person’s head like a cloud for the rest of their lives.