Straight, No Chaser: Gout
As these things go, gout is an incredibly painful disease that has managed to become the source of many jokes. Go figure. In any event, since gout actually is a serious matter, this Straight, No Chaser looks at some basic questions regarding the disease (and no, it doesn’t respond to Robitussin).
What is Gout?
Gout is one of the more than 100 causes of arthritis. It is caused by the accumulation of a substance in your body called uric acid. Uric acid is a breakdown product from naturally occurring substances in the body. It is also found in foods such as beans, peas, liver and anchovies. When uric acid accumulates it can form needle-like crystals, which can deposit in various areas of the body. Accumulation can occur from increased production of uric acid, decreased excretion by the kidneys or increased presence as a result of eating too many of the wrong types of foods (meaning those whose breakdown result in uric acid).
What are the Symptoms of Gout?
When this occurs in the joints, it causes swollen, red, hot, stiff and very painful joints. When this occurs in the kidneys, kidney stones may occur. Gout is most commonly seen early in a big toe, but it can be found in a variety of joints, including the ankles, elbows, fingers, heels, knees and wrists. Gout can be progressively more painful and frequent if untreated.
How is Gout Treated?
Various medications including anti-inflammatory medication (either non-steroidals or steroids) can be used to treat gout. Medicines will be chosen based on your individual risks and needs. An additional medicine named colchicine is often given if it can be taken within the first 12 hours of the start of an attack.
Sometimes medicines will be prescribed in small doses to prevent attacks. If you are having enough attacks that you feel as if you need prevention, discuss this with your physician.
How Can I Prevent Gout?
First, understand your risks. There are risks you can’t control, such as being a man, having family members with the disease or having had an organ transplant. There are other risks you can control, such as being overweight, drinking too much alcohol and eating the wrong foods. In general, drink plenty of water and exercise regularly. Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Use low-fat dairy products for protein. Watch your weight. Additionally, gout can be brought on by stress and stressful events, so try to keep that under control.
Overall, there is a lot you can do to improve things if you have gout. Use the tips just discussed to lower your risks and lessen your pain.
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