What is Gout?

Simply put, Gout can be likened to a type of arthritis.  Sufferers often experience sudden pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints.  Gout commonly occurs in the big toe and is more common in men than women.  Without treatment, sufferers will have to deal with pain.  They may even find that the illness harms their joints and other tissues.

What Causes Gout Outbreaks?

Gout is the result of having too much uric acid in the blood.  Generally speaking, having high levels of uric acid in the blood is usually not a problem.  Most people with lots of uric acid in their blood never experience gout.  But when uric acid levels are too high, the acid may start to form hard crystals in the joints.

The chances of getting gout are increased if a person is overweight, drinks too much or eats too much meat and fish.  This is because some meat and fish are high in chemicals called purines.  Medicines like diuretics can also cause gout.

The average person will know that something is wrong when they start experiencing the symptoms of gout.  Some of these are swelling, tenderness, sharp pains in the big toe and redness.  Sufferers may also feel pain in their feet, ankles, knees and other joints.

Gout attacks can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.  Once the pain goes away, a sufferer may not have another attack for months or years.

Anybody who suspects they have gout should make an appointment with a doctor.  During the consultation, the doctor will ask questions about the patient’s symptoms.  Once he or she has this information, they will do a physical exam.

A sample of fluid may be taken from a joint.  This fluid will be tested for uric acid crystals.  While this may be uncomfortable, it is the best way to test for gout.  Doctors can measure the amount of uric acid in the blood by performing a blood test.

If the patient tests positive for gout, the doctor will recommend the following treatments:

–  A shot of corticosteroids.
–  Medicine.  The doses will get smaller as the patient begins to recover.
–  Rest.
–  Anti-inflammatory medicine will reduce pain levels.
–  A medicine that reduces uric acid build-up.  This is a preventative measure.

Sufferers should NOT take any aspirin for their pain.  This medication increases the level of uric acid in the joint and worsens the condition.

Aside from prescribing medication, the doctor will also tell the patient to manage their lifestyle better.  This means exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and eating less meat.  Drinking plenty of water can also help.  These changes combined with medication will ward off gout attacks and save sufferers a considerable amount of joint pain.

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