Gout may be a funny-sounding name for an ailment, but only those who have experienced gout pain are aware that this type of arthritis is a serious health concern. Gout is caused by excess uric acid crystallizing in one or more joints. Therefore, this ailment causes severe joint pain and inflammation. Know the risk factors for gout to be able to prevent it or treat the underlying causes, if they pose a risk.
Risk Factors For Gout
Here is a list of the number of risk factors for gout:
The Age Factor
The commonest of all risk factors for gout is aging. While gout can strike people, especially men, in their early twenties and even thirties, it is a more common occurrence among people who are around 45 years old or older.
Gout risk increases as a person grows older. This is because the kidneys do not function efficiently in the elderly as compared to the younger population. This could boost the uric acid level in the body. When a person ages, it is more likely that they will depend on more medication. Some of the drugs prescribed and used by old people too can raise the risk of higher uric acid levels, thus adding to the risk factors for gout.
The Gender Issue
While both men and women are susceptible to gout, it is more common among males. Gout risk also affects men at an early age and lasts throughout their life. In general, as men are prone to higher uric acid levels compared to women, it is one of the risk factors for gout. Estrogen acts as a protective shield for women from gout during the childbearing years. However, after menopause, the risk factors for gout increases in women too.
The Medical Factor
There are a number of medical conditions that can act as risk factors for gout. Obese individuals are four times more likely to develop gout as opposed to someone with normal body weight. Diabetes and insulin resistance may also contribute to the development of gout as can decreased kidney function. Those with malignant tumors, and undergoing treatment, can also have high levels of uric acid, thereby leading to gout. If there is a possibility of avoiding gout risk, then losing weight could be an important one. An individual can also visit a doctor regularly to keep other health issues in check.
Certain medication also poses a risk for gout. The use of thiazide diuretics — commonly used to treat hypertension — and low-dose aspirin can also boost uric acid levels. Anti-rejection drugs prescribed for people who have been through an organ transplant is another risk factor for gout.
The Abuse of Alcohol
Drinking certain kinds of alcohol can also increase the flare-ups of gout symptoms. Studies suggest that wine does not increase the risk of gout. However, beer can. In a recently concluded study comparing beer, wine and spirits using a cut-off point of two drinks, on a daily basis, as 'high intake,' beer and to a lesser extent spirits were linked to the development of new gout. Wine did not pose a serious threat. To avoid the risk of gout, abstain from alcohol as much as you can. You can follow this up by choosing to drink wine. You also might not want to overindulge in alcohol, keeping it to a minimum. This apart, your diet can also add to the risk factors for gout. Consuming a diet that is high in meat and seafood and high in drinks sweetened with fruit sugar boosts higher levels of uric acid. This will also increase gout risk.
Gout may also be hereditary. If other members of your family have had a history of gout, you will most likely develop the ailment. It is important to consult the family doctor and avoid placing yourself in a risky situation. Sometimes, early detection or prevention will help you from having to deal with gout at a later stage. People who are at greater risk can take appropriate preventive measures, follow a diet that does not increases the uric acid levels and focus on effective functioning of the kidneys.
Complications of Gout
Individuals suffering from gout may also develop more serious complications. Some of the common complications of gout include,
Some people may not experience gout signs and symptoms after a certain period. However, others may experience gout a number of times annually. Recurrent gout or repeated episodes of gout is one of the commonest complication of gout. Medications may help in the prevention of gout attacks in people with recurrent gout. Do not leave it untreated as gout can cause erosion and destruction of joints.
Untreated gout may lead to a deposit of urate crystals under the skin in nodules. This is called tophi (TOE-fie). Tophi may develop in a person's fingers, feet, hands, elbows or Achilles tendons as well as the backs of the ankles. Tophi is not usually painful, but can swell up and become tender during gout attacks.
Urate crystals may pile up in the urinary tract of people with gout, thereby leading to kidney stones. Medicine can help reduce the risk of kidney stones in addition to necessary precautions and dietary restrictions.
Gout is a painful arthritic condition, which can lead to many complications affecting the joint function. Now that you are aware of the risk factors for gout, you may want to protect your health and seek timely medical opinion. It is necessary to follow medical advice, take appropriate treatment and monitor the progress to manage the condition well.
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