What is gout?

June 17, 2016

Topic: What is gout?

One of the most painful and perhaps lesser known forms of arthritis is called gout.

One of the most common orthopaedic problems, particularly among elderly populations, is arthritis. While most have surely heard of the condition, fewer individuals may be aware of the fact that there are around 100 kinds of arthritis, all of which can target different areas of the body and lead to varying levels of orthopaedic pain, the Arthritis Foundation explained. One of the most painful and perhaps lesser known forms of arthritis is called gout. 

Signs and symptoms of gout
The condition is characterized by inflammation, swelling and often extreme pain. Gout will usually target a certain joint, and the skin around the impacted area or areas will typically become bright red and shiny, Britain's National Health Service explained. For most patients the condition will first be notable in the big toe, but can also impact all other joints, including the wrist, elbows, knees and ankles, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

The condition, unlike other forms of arthritis such as osteoarthritis, is usually temporary. Most patients will see a resolution of symptoms within three to ten days, the source noted. Recurrence, however, is extremely common. The Arthritis Foundation reported that well over half - around 60 percent - of patients will experience a second round of gout within 12 months, while a vast majority of patients - nearly 85 percent - will complain of the condition again in the ensuing three year period after their first attack. 

"60% of patients will experience a second round of gout within 12 months."

A fewer number of individuals may develop chronic gout, however. This stage of the disease is characterized by more persistent pain and can even lead to permanent joint problems, the Arthritis Foundation stated. The source reported that this stage is rare given that management strategies are usually implemented before the condition has the chance to progress to the chronic stage.

Gout is a relatively rare condition that impacts men in greater numbers than women. The Arthritis Foundation detailed that roughly 4 percent of the American population will experience the condition at some point in their lifetime.

What causes gout?
Gout is engendered by an excess of uric acid in the bloodstream, The Arthritis Foundation stated. The large amounts of uric acid can lead to the formations of jagged crystals, which then accumulate in the joints, leading to pain and inflammation.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases explained that gout is common among people that eat foods high in a substance known as purines. Uric acid is a corollary of the body breaking down purines, so individuals with diets high in the substance will be a greater risk of having more uric acid in their body, and subsequently developing gout. Dried beans, peas, anchovies and alcohol are particularly rich in purines, the source noted.

Patients are also more at risk of developing the condition if they are overweight, or if other family members have reported experiencing the problem. 

Gout patients will usually first experience pain in and around their big toe. Gout patients will usually first experience pain in and around their big toe.

How is gout treated?
Given that gout is usually temporary, radical treatment is usually not required or advised. The National Health Service (NHS) advised that management of symptoms is key. For example, ice packs for joint swelling and medications that relieve pain and inflammation, such as corticosteroids, are usually the best course of action. It's also necessary to rest the joint and take care to avoid sustaining an orthopaedic injury, which would no doubt exacerbate the problem. It's also a good idea to keep the joint as cool as possible and drink plenty of water.

Prevention strategies
One of the best ways to deal with gout is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. This involves considering certain kinds of lifestyle adjustments or changes, the NHS detailed. 

  • Lose weight through exercise and healthy eating. Overweight patients are more vulnerable to gout, so it's important to maintain a healthy body mass index.
  • Reduce foods high in purines. This includes certain kinds of beans, fish and red meats. All three of these items can be included in any balanced diet - the key to avoiding any issues is moderation. 
  • Don't drink excessive amounts of alcohol.
  • Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water can inhibit the formation of painful uric acid crystals.
  • Drinking soda has also been shown to increase risk.

Ultimately, the best avoidance strategy is to remain healthy. This includes exercising regularly with cardio and light weight lifting and maintaining a balanced and healthy diet, while limiting products that are obviously detrimental to health, such as fatty meats, processed foods, sodas and alcohol. 

If an individual leads a healthy lifestyle and remains as active as possible, his or her chances of developing this relatively rare condition will be slashed even further. If you ever have any doubt about symptoms or your lifestyle choices, consult with your physician. 

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