Gout is a common and complex form of arthritis that typically affects one joint at a time and is very painful. An attack of gout can happen abruptly, especially at night, and you feel as though your big toe is on fire. The affected joint is hot, inflamed and so tender that it cannot even tolerate the weight of the bedsheet.
There is no cure for gout, but the condition can be effectively treated and managed with medication and self-management approaches.
Gout symptoms may come and go, but you can manage them through different ways.
- Severe joint pain. The condition typically affects the big toe, but it can happen in any joint, including the ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and fingers. The pain is likely to be most intense within the first four to 12 hours after it starts.
- Lasting discomfort. After the highly intense pain wanes, some joint discomfort may linger for a few weeks, sometimes even longer. Other joints may also be affected.
- Swelling and redness. Bout may also cause inflammation, redness and tenderness in the affected joint(s).
- Restricted movement. As gout worsens, you may not be able to move your joints freely.
Call you doctor if you feel sudden, severe pain in your joint(s). And if you have a fever and you see redness or inflammation in any of your joints, which may lead to infection, do not delay in seeking medical care.
The condition occurs when urate crystals accrue in your joint, triggering the swelling and strong pain. And it can occur when you have high levels of uric acid in your blood. Your body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines — elements that are found naturally in your body as well as in certain foods such as red meat. Ordinarily, uric acid dissolves in your blood and passes through your kidneys into your urine. But occasionally either your body produces a lot of uric acid or your kidneys excrete too little of it. When this occurs, uric acid can accumulate, form sharp, acute urate crystals in a joint or neighboring tissue that cause pain, irritation and inflammation.
- Diet. Eating foods full of red meat and drinking carbonated beverages raise the uric acid levels, which enhance your risk of gout. Drinking alcohol, particularly beer, also increases the risk of the condition.
- Weight. If you’re obese, your body produces more uric acid and your kidneys have a hard time excreting uric acid.
- Heath problems. Certain illnesses and medical conditions raise your risk of gout, including untreated hypertension and lingering conditions such as diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and heart and kidney diseases.
- Certain medications. Low-dose aspirin and some medicines used to control high blood pressure also can raise uric acid levels. So can the use of anti-rejection medicines set for people who have experienced an organ transplant.
- Family history. If an immediate member of your family has had gout, you’re more likely to develop the condition.
- Age and sex. Gout happens more often in men, mainly because women tend to have lower levels of uric acid. Nevertheless, after menopause women’s uric acid levels equal those of men. Men are also more likely to have the disease earlier — typically between the ages of 30 and 50 — whereas women usually develop signs and symptoms after menopause.
There are two types of medications for gout: the first type helps decrease the swelling and pain linked with the condition. The second type is effective in preventing the complications by reducing the amount of uric acid in your blood.
Which type of medication is appropriate for you hinges on the incidence and intensity of your symptoms, together with any other health glitches you may have.
Medications used to treat and prevent gout attacks include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Although medications are often the most effective way to treat gout, lifestyle modifications also are important to prevent the disease. In this context, it’s important to do away with carbonated drinks and drink plenty of water, while avoiding foods rich in purines. Exercising regularly and keeping your body at a healthy weight also reduce the likelihood of gout. Some of the best medications to help fight gout include Gouric, Uriguard, and Zyloric.