What causes gout? Find out everything you need to know, including the diagnostic procedures and treatment options, in this article.
In this article:
- What Is Gout?
- What Are the Common Symptoms of Gout?
- What Causes Gout?
- Who Is at Risk for Gout?
- Where in the Body Does Gout Usually Occur?
- Why Does Gout Pain Attack at Night?
- When Should You See a Doctor?
- How Is Gout Diagnosed?
- What Are the Treatment Options for Gout?
- How Is Gout Prevented?
Everything You Need to Know About Gout
What Is Gout?
Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis which develops as a result of high levels of uric acid.
Uric Acid Definition: a waste by-product in the body that tends to build up in the joint area if not disposed of properly through urine or excreta
Gout usually affects the joints of the feet, fingers, or wrists. It causes swelling, stiffness, and intense pain.
The population of people with gout in the US appears to be on the rise, affecting 8.3 million Americans, studies show.
What Are the Common Symptoms of Gout?
It’s always better to know the early signs of gout because the attacks often worsen over time if left ignored and untreated. Here are common gout symptoms to watch out for:
- Joints that feel stiff or sore
- Sudden crushing pain in joints that often lasts for days
- Joint pain, which usually happens at night
- Joints that appear swollen and inflamed (feel warm and skin appears to be red or purple)
- Burning, itching, or tingling feeling in a joint an hour or two before the flare-up starts
What Causes Gout?
There are many triggering factors that contribute to gout attacks. Having a high level of uric acid is the main cause.
Here are the foods to avoid to lessen the rise of uric acid levels in the body:
- Organ meats such as liver, kidneys, sweetbreads
- Alcoholic beverages
- Game meat or wild animals like venison and veal
- Fish like herring, trout, mackerel, tuna, sardines, anchovies
- Scallops, crab, shrimp, mussels
- Sugary beverages
Although diet has a lot to do with what causes gout, there are still other causes or triggering factors:
- Joint injury
- Diuretic medications for high blood pressure or heart failure
- The drug cyclosporine
- Starting a uric acid-lowering treatment
Who Is at Risk for Gout?
There are specific factors that put people at risk of developing gout:
- Age. It is more likely to begin around the age of 45.
- Gender. Gout is more common in men. With women, it often occurs around age 60 or after menopause.
- Diabetes and kidney problems. Metabolism and excretion area are affected when a person develops these conditions.
- Heredity. Though gout is not hereditary, susceptibility to it (illnesses like high blood pressure and obesity) can often be inherited.
Where in the Body Does Gout Usually Occur?
Gout typically affects the big toes – the large joints in particular. It also affects the joints of the elbows, knees, ankles, and wrists.
Why Does Gout Pain Attack at Night?
Compared to daytime, gout pains are twice as likely to occur during the night. This is attributed to the drop in body temperature, dipping of cortisol levels, and nighttime dehydration during sleep.
A study involving 724 gout patients reported that gout flares were most common between 12 midnight and 7:59 in the morning.
RELATED: 9 Best Essential Oils for Arthritis
When Should You See a Doctor?
There are other types of joint and inflammatory conditions that may have the same symptoms as gout, and the painful attack usually goes away in about 5 to 10 days. However, that is not always the case.
It’s always best to seek medical help as early as the symptoms develop.
How Is Gout Diagnosed?
Gout might be a little difficult to diagnose. When its symptoms appear, they are often similar to those of other conditions. While hyperuricemia (excess in uric acid) occurs in most people that develop gout, it may not be present during the attack.
That’s why there are tests done in order to diagnose gout:
- Joint Fluid Tests. The fluid is extracted from the affected joint with a needle and is examined to see if any urate crystals are present. As joint infections can also cause similar symptoms, tests to check the presence of bacteria may also be done (to rule out a bacterial cause).
- Blood Tests. Blood is extracted to measure the levels of uric acid present. But as mentioned, high uric acid levels don’t automatically determine gout.
- Ultrasound and/or CT scans. Imaging tests are done to check for urate crystals.
What Are the Treatment Options for Gout?
The pain when having a gout attack can be severe, but there are several treatment options to decrease the swelling. Over-the-counter gout remedies, like anti-inflammatory analgesics (e.g. ibuprofen), can be taken to help ease pain and swelling.
Drugs that lower uric acid, like Allopurinol and Lesinurad, may also be taken as prescribed.
Gout treatments at home may also work:
- Cold or ice pack. Massage the cold compress on the affected joint to help lower inflammation and soothe the pain. Apply for 20 to 30 minutes as needed; make sure to have rest periods.
- Rest. Do not force excessive or extreme movements on the affected part.
- Hydration. Uric acid levels rise with dehydration. Stay hydrated.
- Elevation of the affected foot. Raise the affected foot or leg higher than the chest using a stack of pillows or a rolled towel.
- Healthy diet. Say no to food with high-purine and uric acid.
How Is Gout Prevented?
Preventive measures for gout are focused on diet and lifestyle.
- Limit alcohol intake.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Stay properly hydrated.
Here are some tips from BRIGHT SIDE on how to fight gout attack:
Gout is a type of arthritis that, when left untreated, can lead to serious complications and limit mobility. Early diagnosis plays an important role in the ease of management of this condition.
Each person has a different medical background, so it is always best to seek professional medical care for more thorough tests. A better understanding of one’s condition paves the way to a more comprehensive treatment plan.
Discuss with your doctor the changes you can make in your lifestyle and diet to support the medications and therapies you take. Supplements may also be added to your daily health regimen. We recommend this Vitamin D3 supplement.
What other or new treatment options for gout do you know? Share them with us in the comments section below!