What is a Gout?
Ever felt your toe catch on fire while you are on a late-night stroll in the park contemplating your life? On removing the shoe, one may see an odd swelling or redness on the big toe causing the pain, this reddish-swelling is called gout.
Gout is a common form of arthritis that is characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness in the joints, most often in the big toe. Usually, the pain caused by gout can be acute and in some scenarios, even unbearable.
What can cause it?
When urate crystals build up in your joint, it results in gout, which is characterized by joint inflammation and excruciating pain. Urate crystals may build when blood uric acid levels are high. Your body processes purines, which are compounds that are naturally produced there, producing uric acid.
In a healthy person, uric acid dissolves in the blood and is excreted in the urine by the kidneys. However, occasionally either your body excretes too little uric acid or your kidneys create too much. As a result of uric acid buildup, a joint or the tissue around it may grow pointed, needle-like urate crystals, which can occur in patients, soreness, and inflammation.
Some food items, such as red meat and organ meats, for instance, liver, contain purines as well. Higher uric acid levels are encouraged by alcoholic beverages, particularly beer, and liquids sweetened with fruit sugar (fructose).
Which Risk Factors can Increase the Chances of Gout?
Gout is more likely to occur when the body has high levels of uric acid in it. Factors that increase the uric acid level, which is the major cause of gout, are:-
- Diet: a diet rich in red meat, such as lamb, and shellfish, drinking beverages sweetened with fructose (fruit sugar) and alcohol consumption, especially beer, drastically increases levels of uric acid, which increases the risk of developing gout.
- Weight: the body tends to produce more uric acid when it is overweight as the kidneys have a more difficult time eliminating the uric acid.
- Medical conditions: Certain diseases which include untreated high blood pressure and chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and heart and kidney diseases increase the risk of gout.
- Certain medications: Low-dose aspirin and medications used to control and treat hypertension such as thiazide diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and beta blockers can also increase uric acid levels.
- Family history: Gout is relatively hereditary too, if other members of your family have had a history of commonly developing gout, then you’re also more likely to develop the disease.
- Age and sex. Gout occurs more commonly in men as opposed to females, as females tend to have lower uric acid levels in their bodies. After menopause, however, women’s uric acid levels increase and approach those of men which do lead to an increase in chances of developing gout.
- Recent surgery or trauma: Experiencing recent surgery or trauma or even receiving a vaccination can sometimes trigger a gout attack.
How is it Treated?
Gout medications are available in two types and each type focuses on one particular problem associated with the disease. The first type helps reduce inflammation and pain and the second type helps to prevent gout complications by lowering the amount of uric acid. Which type of medication should be used depends on the frequency and the severity of the symptoms present, while considering other health problems that one may suffer from.
Drugs commonly used to treat gout flares and prevent any future attacks usually include:-
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): In alternative to stronger prescription NSAIDs like indomethacin (Indocin, Tivorbex) or celecoxib, over-the-counter NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, and others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) are also available (Celebrex). But, one must be careful as NSAIDs come with hazards such as ulcers, bleeding, and stomach pain.
- Colchicine: Colchicine such as Colcrys, Gloperba and Mitigare, are anti-inflammatory medication that significantly lessens gout discomfort, these may be suggested by a doctor. The negative effects of the medication may include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea, and in most cases, these may outweigh its effectiveness.
- Corticosteroids: Prednisone and other corticosteroid drugs may greatly reduce the pain and inflammation associated with gout. The patient can take corticosteroids orally or have them injected directly into the infected joint. Corticosteroids’ adverse effects can include raised blood pressure and elevated blood sugar levels.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice.