Gout – What Is It?

Janice CarsonJanice Carson

One of the more misunderstood forms of arthritis is gout. Gout can cause a person to experience a sudden swelling, stiffness or pain in a joint. Gout usually affects the big toe and, if left untreated, can cause permanent damage to the tendons, joints and other tissues. Although gout can affect both men and women, it is most common in men and is caused by an excess amount of uric acid in the blood. Generally, too much uric acid in the blood is not harmful and many individuals never get gout despite high uric acid levels.

Gout - What Is It?

When uric acid levels are high, however, hard crystals can form in a person’s joints. The risk of developing Gout goes up substantially if a person drinks and excessive amount of alcohol, is overweight or consumes fish or meat that are high in purines. It is also possible for a person to develop gout after taking diuretics. The signs of doubt that are most common are tenderness, redness, swelling or a sharp pain in the big toe, especially during the night. An individual may also experience gout in the knees, foot or ankle. An attack can last a few days or several weeks and the space between attacks can be months or even years.

In order to diagnose gout, a physician will ask an individual a variety of questions regarding their symptoms and do a full physical examination. A physician may also perform a test of the fluid in the blood to look for uric acid crystals. A blood test may also be necessary in order to determine a person’s risk for developing gout. Although there are other conditions that can mimic the symptoms of gout, it will be necessary for a physician to actually diagnose the disease and set up a proper treatment plan for the patient.

Managing Gout often involves a shot of corticosteroids or a prescription of different types of medicine. Anti-inflammatory medications can also provide relief during a gout attack and it is generally recommended that a person rest the joint as much as possible during an attack. Medicine designed to reduce the amount of uric acid in the blood will be prescribed to help prevent future attacks of gout. In most cases, an individual will have to take medication for the rest of their lives in order to manage this disease. It has also been shown to be effective for a person to pay close attention to the foods they eat when managing gout.