Contributed by: Rachana Arya
Gout has always gotten a bad reputation. It’s long been associated with overweight men, lavish living and overindulgence of food and alcohol. However, this is simply not true. Gout isn’t a self-inflicted disease and can affect almost anyone and is more common than you might believe. Gout accounts for approximately 0.12 to 0.19% population.
Let’s explore what to expect in the disease, and how to keep gout from getting worse in the first place.
FAQ #1: What is gout?
Gout is an arthritic condition that produces significant pain, swelling, redness, warmth, and tenderness in the joints resulting from deposits of uric acid crystals that build up in joints.
FAQ #2: Is gout an autoimmune disease?
Gout is an inflammatory disorder. It is not an autoimmune condition
FAQ #3: Which body parts does gout affect?
Gout most commonly affects the below organs:
- Big toe joint
FAQ #4: What causes gout?
Gout is caused when uric acid builds up in the body and forms needle-like crystals in the joints. The factors that may trigger an episode of gout may be due to any one of the below reasons:
- The kidneys are ineffective in getting rid of uric acid
- The body has difficulty breaking down protein substances(purines)found naturally in foods
- The body produces too much uric acid
- Eating too much of certain foods such as salmon, liver etc.
- Drinking too much alcohol, especially beer
- Drinking too many beverages sweetened with fruit sugar
FAQ #5: What is the frequency of gout flare-ups?
Gout flare-ups appear very suddenly and might linger for days or weeks. These flare-ups are followed by long periods of remission without symptoms —weeks, months, or years—before another flare occurs.
FAQ #6: Who is predisposed to gout?
While gout can affect persons of any age, it predominantly occurs in middle-aged men — usually between the ages of 30 and 50 — primarily because women tend to have lower uric acid levels. However, after menopause, women become more susceptible as their uric acid levels approach those of men. Gout is more common in people who are overweight and consume foods rich in purines (especially meats and seafood).
FAQ #7: What medical conditions can cause gout?
Certain medical conditions that may increase the uric acid level in your body and put you at greater risk for gout include:
FAQ #8: Is gout genetic?
In some families, inherited factors play a role in a person’s risk for developing gout. If a parent or other members of the family has been diagnosed with gout you’re more likely to develop the disease.
FAQ #9: What happens if gout is left without treatment?
Research has clearly demonstrated that if left untreated, it can cause long term consequences to other organs as well, including:
- Tophi (soft tissue swellings caused by deposits of uric acid crystals) may form on the toes, fingers, hands or elbows.
- Kidney stones and, in some cases, it can result in chronic kidney failure
- Erosion and destruction of a joint
- Restricted mobility
FAQ #10: Can gout be prevented?
There is no sure way to prevent gout. However, if diagnosed early, the disabling effects of gout can be prevented and the disease can be prevented from becoming more progressive. Some interventions include:
- Proper diet
- Weight loss
- Limiting or avoiding alcohol
- Drinking plenty of fluids
FAQ #11: How is gout diagnosed?
Gout is diagnosed based on personal and family history, as well as a physician’s examination. Uric acid levels are determined through blood testing. X-rays may be used to check for abnormal bone and joint changes. The doctor may also check the joint fluid for uric acid crystals.
FAQ #12: How can gout be managed successfully?
Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to the successful management of gout. Successfully dealing with the pain of gout requires self-management skills. It is important for patients to learn about their disease and to take part in their own care. According to research, patients who take part in their own care report less pain as well as enjoy a better quality of life.
FAQ #13: What are some self-management techniques for treating gout?
Self-management techniques include:
- Awareness and education
- Exercise programs
- Relaxation and stress management
- Eating well-balanced meals
- Maintaining proper weight
The inflammation and swelling — in other words, a gout attack or flare — is certainly a painful experience. Given that it has the same destructive and disabling potential as rheumatoid arthritis, it is important for anyone who is contending with the condition to seek treatment for this serious inflammatory disease.
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