Gout is a medical condition which is caused by accumulation of uric acid within the body. Individuals with gout either produce excess uric acid or are unable to excrete the produced uric acid. Uric acid is a waste product resulting from break down of food. It is excreted by the kidneys. Gout is a type of arthritis affecting the joints. When the big toe is affected by gout, then it is known as podagra. Gout commonly affects the big toe, but other joints such as heel, ankle, knee, elbow, wrist or finger joints may also be affected. Gout commonly affects men more than women. Men aged between 40 and 60 and who have a family history of gout are more likely to suffer with this condition. Some medications like aspirin, niacin, diuretics and chemotherapy also pose as risk factors for developing gout. So individuals suffering from hypertension, high cholesterol, cancer, diabetes and psoriasis etc. are more prone to develop gout. High production of uric acid or kidney function problems leads to development of crystals within the joints causing pain and inflammation.
Causes and Risk Factors of Gout
- Hereditary factor.
- Consumption of alcoholic beverages, especially beer.
- Excessive consumption of oily fish, red meats, internal organs and yeast.
- Trauma to the joint.
- IV contrast dyes, chemotherapy, use of certain medications such as diuretics and some anti-hypertensive medications, aspirin, nicotinic acid etc.
- Lack of proper meals.
- Decreased fluid intake.
Symptoms of Gout
- Acute joint pain.
- Swelling in the joint.
- The skin may be red in color and shiny in appearance.
- Peeling or flaking of the skin may be present.
- Itchiness may be felt in the joint.
- Individuals who suffer from gout commonly also have kidney stones due to uric acid build up.
- Uric acid crystals can accumulate in the skin. These are called as tophi.
Diagnosis of Gout
- Joint fluid aspiration
- Blood tests
- Radiographic studies such as x-rays
Treatment of Gout
- The foot should be rested and kept elevated.
- Ice therapy can be applied to relieve swelling and pain.
- Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAID's) such as ibuprofen and naproxen help in decreasing pain, swelling and inflammation.
- If the pain is severe then the physician may prescribe colchicine. This medicine helps in stabilizing the increased uric acid levels. Side effects of this medicine are nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
- If the pain is still not relieved, then corticosteroids may be given either orally or can be injected into the joint.
- Surgery is required only if there has been significant damage to the joint.
Prevention of Gout
- Lifestyle modification with changes in diet is required to avoid flare ups of this condition. Foods such as red meat, oily seafood, vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, and lentils and yeast products should be avoided.
- Alcohol especially beer and port should be strictly avoided.
- Drink plenty of water.
- In case the patient is overweight, then losing the excess weight helps in bringing down the acid levels.
- Exercise should be done daily.
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