Do you encounter intense joint pain? Beware! Gout can give you a tough time. Know how you can deal with it.
A Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that tends to develop in people with high levels of uric acid in the blood. The acid can form needle-like crystals in a joint and lead to sudden, severe episodes of pain, tenderness, redness, warmth, and swelling. It is characterized by sudden, severe attacks of pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness in the joints, often the joint at the base of your big toe. One may get a gout attack suddenly, and you may get a sensation as if your big toe is on fire. Moreover, the joint which gets affected is hot, swollen, and tender as well. There are different types of gout namely – asymptomatic hyperuricemia, acute gout, interval or inetrcritical gout, chronic tophaceous gout, and pseudo gout. Various studies suggest that gout is linked with functional impairment and, for many, diminished health-related quality of life. But, the introduction of novel urate-lowering therapies, new imaging modalities, and a deeper understanding of the pathogenesis of gout increase the possibility of better gout care and improved patient outcomes.
One may experience gout symptoms suddenly, and often during the night time. One may exhibit symptoms like joint discomfort which may also last for over a few days to even weeks. To add to the agony, there will be intense joint pain as gout mainly tends to affect the large joint of one’s big toe, although it may occur in any joint. Furthermore, the other joints which can get affected are ankles, knees, elbows, wrists, and fingers. One may also feel intense pain within the first four to 12 hours after it begins. There will also be inflammation and redness as the affected joint or joints may swell, become warm, red and tender, and this may surely rob your peace. Also, there will be a limited range of motion. On the progression of gout, one will not be able to move the joints, and this can be immensely painful.
The causes of gout
One may suffer from gout when urate crystals get accumulated in the joint, leading to inflammation and intense pain of a gout attack. Urate crystals tend to form when one’s uric acid levels in the blood are high. Uric acid is produced by the body when it breaks down purines — these are substances which are naturally found in one’s body. Moreover, you will also be stunned to know that purines are also found in certain foods like seafood. Other foods which promote higher levels of uric acid are alcoholic beverages, especially beer, and drinks sweetened with fruit sugar (fructose). Generally, uric acid gets dissolved in the blood and passes through the kidneys into one’s urine. But, sometimes one’s body may produce too much uric acid or one’s kidneys may excrete too little uric acid. When this takes place, the uric acid can get build up, and forms needle-like urate crystals in a joint which are sharp and this can invite pain, inflammation, and swelling.
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What are the risk factors?
One may suffer from gout owing to faulty eating habits. As mentioned earlier, eating a diet which consists of meat and seafood and drinking beverages sweetened with fruit sugar (fructose), can put you at the risk of gout. Being overweight can also be problematic. This is so because, if you are overweight, then your body will produce more uric acid and your kidneys may find it difficult to get rid of that uric acid. Certain medical conditions can be the culprits too. These tend to include untreated high blood pressure and chronic conditions like diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart and kidney diseases. Ones with a family history are also at the risk of gout. If there is anyone in your family who is was suffering from this condition then you’re more likely to fall prey to gout. Moreover, it is mostly seen in men, as women tend to have lower uric acid levels. But, after menopause, women’s uric acid levels approach those of men. Men tend to suffer from it usually when they are in the age group of 30-50, while women tend to exhibit the symptoms usually after menopause. And last but not the least; one may also suffer from gout owing to recent surgery or trauma.
Gout is tackled with the help of medications which can be used to deal with the symptoms of gout attacks, prevent future flares, and lower the risk of gout complications like kidney stones. Anti-inflammatory drugs are commonly used for this condition. These medications can help lower inflammation and pain. Moreover, your doctor may also prescribe medications which can help you reduce the production of uric acid or enhance your kidney’s ability to remove uric acid from your body. Here, you must also remember that you should never self-medicate by opting for over-the-counter medications as they can be risky. Medicines should only be taken under the doctor’s guidance.
Follow these preventive measures
• Hydration is the key: You should drink a lot of water, and bid adieu to the sweetened beverages you drink, especially those sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.
• Maintain a healthy weight: Losing weight may decrease uric acid levels in your body. But avoid fasting or rapid weight loss, since doing so may raise uric acid levels temporarily.
(Disclaimer: Writer is Dr Rakesh Nair, Exclusive knee replacement surgeon, Zen Hospital. Views expressed are a personal opinion.)