Gout News

Gout is a painful form of arthritis caused by deposits of uric acid, a waste material, in the body. It primarily occurs in the foot, particularly in the joints of the big toe, but it can occur elsewhere in the body, too. The pain related to gout can also affect the heels, ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and fingers.

Causes of Gout

Uric acid is a waste product that comes from food. In most cases, it dissolves in the blood and is eventually passed out of the body in urine. But when there's too much uric acid in the body, or if the kidneys can’t process it all, it can remain in the body and deposit itself in certain joints.

Considering the relationship between gout and food, it’s understandable that people with a certain type of diet have a higher risk for gout. This includes those who eat a lot of red meat or shellfish, drink alcohol to excess or enjoy a lot of sugary drinks. Certain medications also can raise the risk for gout, as can diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity. Gender and genetics can play a role in gout's occurrences, too: It is more common in men than women, and many people have a family history of gout.

Symptoms

As uric acid crystals first form in the body, gout may not produce symptoms. But over time, gout may appear in "attacks" of pain and swelling that last for several days. Then, the gout may subside for up to several months, but it tends to recur and can increase in frequency over time. If left untreated, gout can progress to the point where it causes permanent damage to joints and leads to disability.

Treatment of Gout

It may be possible to prevent the occurrence of gout by cutting back on consumption of red meat, shellfish, alcohol and sugary drinks. The primary treatments for gout symptoms are pain medications, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids are most often recommended. With the right medication and proper management of diet and lifestyle, many with gout can keep the condition under control and prevent attacks of the pain related to the condition.

SOURCES: U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases; American College of Rheumatology

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