Gout is a type of painful inflammatory arthritis. It is a medical condition that has been identified for millennia, with the first recorded diagnosis dating back over 4500 years to ancient Egypt. It can affect any joint, but usually appears in the big toe and is marked by intense pain, swelling, redness, and stiffness; if severe enough, it can be temporarily debilitating. And, like many forms of arthritis, there is no cure; fortunately, effective treatments may be available.
Causes of Gout
When gout manifests itself, it is the result of a long process that has been developing over years. The main cause of gout is a buildup of uric acid in the body, a condition known formally as hyperuricemia. This leads to uric acid crystal deposits in joints (most often, the big toe) or the formation of kidney stones or lumpy deposits under the skin.
Uric acid forms when the body breaks down purines. Normally, it is processed through the kidneys and eliminated in urine. But when the body produces too much uric acid, or when the kidneys cannot eliminate it, it remains in the body and accumulates to become a cause of gout. Purine, while naturally occurring in the body, is also found in many foods, including liquor (particularly beer), certain seafoods, and spinach.
Gout is caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints.
There are some medical conditions or treatments that can trigger an attack of gout. These include an injury to a joint, chemotherapy, treatment for lowering uric acid levels, certain diuretics, cyclosporine, or an infection. However, the most prevalent gout triggers revolve around lifestyle, and diet in particular. Alone or in combination, red meat, shellfish, certain vegetables, soft drinks, and alcohol consumption can bring on an attack. In addition, dehydration, fasting, crash diets, and a lack of exercise can also cause it to appear.
There are also some conditions that may predispose people to developing gout. Among these are a family history of the disease, being male, being overweight, having an enzyme defect, or having been exposed to lead.
What is the Treatment for Gout?
If the conditions are right to cause a sufficient buildup of uric acid, an attack of gout is inevitable. When it will happen, though, cannot be predicted. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to lessen the risk or to help control uric acid levels. Exercising regularly, watching your diet, and limiting alcohol consumption are some of the best measures to take. Along with lifestyle changes, there are medications available, such as Uloric, which are designed to help lower uric acid levels.
For those who already suffer from gout, it is important to make lifestyle changes and to work closely with your doctor to help prevent flare-ups, and to have an effective gout treatment plan when flare-ups do occur. Individuals who are at risk for gout but who have thus far avoided an attack should begin making immediate adjustments as a preventive measure. If your doctor informs you that you fit a gout profile, ask about Uloric or other medications that can be prescribed to reduce uric acid levels.