What is gout?
Gout is an inflammatory form of arthritis that develops in people with high levels of uric acid and affects one or more joints in the body. In fact, severe gout can affect many joints in the body together all at once. This condition is known as polyarticular gout. Gout is usually accompanied by the uric acid symptoms of joint redness, swollen joints, joint pain, and a sensation of warmth in the affected joints.
Normal uric acid levels are 2.4-6.0 mg/dL (female) and 3.4-7.0 mg/dL (male), though the values may vary from laboratory to laboratory. When the blood uric acid level rises above 7mg/dL problems such as kidney stones and gout occur.
In this article we will look at:
- How does gout occur?
- Who is prone to gout?
- Causes of gout
- Symptoms of gout
- Diagnosis of gout
- Complications of gout
- Treatment for gout
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How does gout occur?
Uric acid is produced from the natural breakdown of your body's cells and from the foods you eat. The kidneys help to filter out uric acid from the body which then passes out of the body in urine.
If there is an excessive build-up of uric acid in the body and the kidneys are not able to filter it all out naturally, the level of uric acid in the body rises. High levels of uric acid in the blood can cause uric acid crystals to form in the joints. This causes the painful condition called gout.
Who is prone to gout?
Certain people are more prone to gout than others, they include:
- People who eat a diet high in meat and seafood constantly.
- People who overindulge in drinking alcohol.
- People who suffer from medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
- People who have a family history of gout.
- Women after menopause may develop symptoms of gout since the uric acid levels in women tend to rise after menopause.
- People who had surgery recently may be susceptible to gout.
- People who suffer from obesity.
- People with insufficient kidney function are at increased risk for gout.
What are the causes of gout?
The causes of gout or of high uric acid include:
- high levels of uric acid in the body
- a family history of gout
- certain medicines, which can increase uric acid levels in the body
- constantly consuming a diet rich in red meat and seafood
- overindulgence in alcohol
- starvation and dehydration
What are the symptoms of gout? How is gout diagnosed?
The most common symptoms of gout are:
- sudden and severe pain in a particular joint, usually in early mornings or in the middle of the night
- joint tenderness
- a sensation of warmth in the affected joints
- stiffness in the joint
- swollen joints
If you suspect that you suffer from symptoms of gout you can visit your family physician or any general doctor. A general physician usually treats gout, however, if your condition is too severe he may refer you to a rheumatologist.
Gout may be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can be vague and could be from other conditions. The following tests could be suggested by your doctor to diagnose gout:
- Joint fluid test: To conduct this test your doctor draws a sample of synovial fluid from your joint. The fluid is examined under a microscope for uric acid crystals. The joint fluid may also be cultured to see if bacteria grow from it.
- Blood test: A blood test will help to measure the levels of uric acid and creatinine in your blood.
- X-ray imaging: X-rays of joints can be helpful to rule out other causes of joint inflammation.
- Ultrasound: Urate crystals can be detected in a joint with the help of an ultrasound.
- Dual-energy CT scan: This test though not often performed, can detect the presence of urate crystals in a joint, even when it is not acutely inflamed.
What are the complications of gout?
Some complications of gout include:
- Kidney stones
- Tophi, which is a condition that occurs when deposits of urate crystals form under the skin in nodules in areas of the body such as fingers, hands, feet, elbows or Achilles tendons along the backs of your ankles.
- Joint damage which can occur due to recurrent gout
What is the treatment for gout?
Medical Treatment for Gout
Medical treatment for gout usually involves medicines. Your doctor will prescribe medicines based on your current health condition.
Medications for gout are usually prescribed to treat prevent future acute attacks and reduce the risk of complications.
People often wonder how can they exercise if they suffer from gout since the joints are so painful and sensitive.
However, keep in mind inactivity can make you less flexible, and weaken your joints and muscles. This can result in bone loss and further intensify the symptoms of gout. Exercising will keep you fit and healthy and help you to maintain an ideal body weight. Exercising will increase your energy and make your bones, joints and muscles strong. Else if you suffer from gout the bones and joints deteriorate over time.
Before deciding on an exercise regimen make sure to consult your doctor and find out if the kind of exercises you are interested in are suitable for you.
Some of the exercises that you can opt for are yoga, Tai Chi, low impact aerobic exercises, dancing, cycling, swimming.
Questions answered by trusted doctors
Did you know?
Gout in children and women
Gout rarely occurs in children and in women before menopause.
Gout in India
65% of the gout patients in India are from middle socioeconomic class.
Gout in men
Gout is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis in men (5-27 per 1000 men).
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