Gout is an inflammation of the joint specifically affecting the big toe. It is caused by a buildup of uric acid, which forms crystals that can deposit in the joints, resulting in inflammation and pain. Gout can be a debilitating and recurring condition, but with proper management, it can be controlled and the symptoms can be minimized.
Symptoms of gout include intense pain, redness, and swelling in the affected joint, as well as warmth and stiffness. The most common joint affected by gout is the big toe, but it can also affect other joints such as the knee, ankle, and wrist. Gout attacks can happen suddenly and can be severe, often waking people up in the middle of the night. The pain can last for several days or even weeks.
The main cause of gout is a buildup of uric acid in the body. Uric acid is a waste product that is produced when the body breaks down purines, which are found in certain foods such as red meat, seafood, and organ meats. In most people, uric acid is eliminated from the body through the kidneys. A buildup of uric acid in the blood happens in cases where the body produces too much uric acid or the kidneys are not able to eliminate it efficiently. This can cause the formation and deposition of uric acid crystals in the joints leading to symptoms of gout.
Several factors contribute to the development of gout including:
- Genetics: certain genetic factors may make some people more susceptible to the condition.
- Obesity: when you are overweight, your body produces more uric acid than normal
- High blood pressure and high cholesterol: These conditions can also increase the risk of gout by putting extra strain on the kidneys and making it more difficult for them to eliminate uric acid from the body.
- Dehydration: Not drinking enough water and fluids can cause a buildup of uric acid in the blood and increase the risk of gout.
- Certain medications: Some medications, such as diuretics, low-dose aspirin, and some chemotherapy drugs, can increase the risk of gout by affecting the way the body handles uric acid.
- Excessive alcohol consumption: Drinking alcohol, especially beer and hard liquor, can increase the risk of gout by raising uric acid levels in the blood.
Treatment for gout typically involves medications to reduce inflammation and pain, and to lower uric acid levels in the blood. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen, are often prescribed for pain relief. Colchicine, allopurinol and febuxostat are the medications that lower the level of uric acid in the blood. Consult your doctor before taking any of these medications.
In addition to medication, there are several ways to manage gout and reduce the frequency of the attacks.
One of the most important things you can do to manage gout naturally is to maintain a healthy weight through a healthy diet and regular exercise.
It is also important to limit your intake of alcohol, especially beer and hard liquor, as they can increase the risk of gout. Drinking plenty of water and fluids can also help flush out excess uric acid from the body and reduce the risk of gout attacks. Staying hydrated can also help reduce the risk of developing kidney stones, which can form from the uric acid crystals.
Applying ice to the affected joint can also help reduce pain and inflammation during a gout attack. Wrapping a bag of frozen peas or a cold pack in a towel and applying it to the affected joint for 15-20 minutes at a time can be effective.
Gout is a complex condition that requires a combination of medical treatment and lifestyle changes to manage effectively. With the right care, gout can be controlled, and the symptoms can be minimized. If you suspect that you may have gout, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider to get an accurate diagnosis and develop an effective treatment plan.
About The Author
Dr. Coco is a highly-educated and well-qualified primary care physician who graduated from the University of the Philippines Baguio with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and her Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center. She completed her three-year residency training in Family Medicine at Brokenshire Medical Center. She passed her diplomate exams in Family Medicine, given by the Philippine Academy of Family Physicians in 2018.
Dr. Coco is dedicated to providing comprehensive and holistic care for her patients. She is a primary care physician who believes in delivering continuing comprehensive health care for all. To her, patients are not just a number as she takes time to analyse how she can improve their overall health every chance they can get.