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Understanding Gout: Causes, Symptoms and Management

Gout frequently targets the joints at the base of the big toe but can affect other areas
12:00 AM May 01, 2024 IST | Guest Contributor
understanding gout  causes  symptoms and management

What is Gout?


Gout is a type of arthritis that occurs when there is too much uric acid in the blood, leading to the formation of urate crystals in the joints. This excess uric acid can cause intense pain, swelling, and redness in the affected joints, making it a painful and debilitating condition.


Common Age for Gout


Gout is more common in adults, with a higher prevalence in men than women, typically affecting men over the age of 30. Women are more likely to develop gout after menopause.


Areas of the Body Most Affected


Gout frequently targets the joints at the base of the big toe but can affect other areas, including ankles, knees, elbows, wrists, and fingers. The big toe is often the first to be affected, leading to what is commonly known as a gout attack.


Symptoms of Gout


The hallmark symptom of gout is a sudden onset of severe pain in the affected joints, especially at night. These gout attacks can lead to:

Intense joint pain that may last a few days before easing

Lingering discomfort that could last a few weeks after the severe pain subsides

Inflammation and redness, with the joints becoming swollen, tender, and warm

Risk Factors for Gout

Several factors can increase the risk of developing gout, including:

Diet: Consuming a diet rich in meat, seafood, and beverages sweetened with fruit sugar (fructose) or drinks containing alcohol can raise levels of uric acid.

Obesity: Being overweight increases the risk as the body produces more uric acid and the kidneys have a harder time eliminating it.

Medical conditions: Certain diseases and conditions, such as high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, are linked to higher risk.

Certain medications: Use of thiazide diuretics (commonly used to treat hypertension) and low-dose aspirin can increase uric acid levels.

Family history: If other members of your family have had gout, you’re more likely to develop it.

Prevention of Gout

Preventing gout involves making lifestyle changes to maintain good health and minimize risk factors. Here are some preventative measures:

Maintain a healthy weight: Weight management helps reduce uric acid levels and prevent gout attacks.

Choose a balanced diet: Limit intake of meats, seafood, and alcohol, especially beer. Opt for a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids helps dilute uric acid and promote its elimination through urine.

Exercise regularly: This helps improve overall health and maintain a healthy weight.

Diagnosing Gout

Diagnosing gout typically involves a combination of methods, including a thorough medical history and physical examination to assess symptoms and joint inflammation. Joint fluid analysis helps confirm the diagnosis by identifying urate crystals, while blood tests may indicate elevated uric acid levels. Imaging tests like ultrasounds, X-rays, and dual-energy CT scans can also aid in diagnosing gout and assessing joint damage. Accurate diagnosis is essential for initiating appropriate treatment and preventing future gout attacks.

Treatment for Gout

Gout treatment aims to reduce pain during attacks and prevent future gout attacks. Treatment methods include:

Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), colchicine, or corticosteroids can help manage pain and inflammation during an attack.

Medications to lower uric acid levels: Drugs like allopurinol or febuxostat can be prescribed to reduce the production of uric acid or improve its elimination.

Lifestyle changes: As mentioned in prevention, adjustments in diet and physical activity are essential.

BY Dr Tariq Rasool