Contributed by: Healthians Team
Gout is a common form of inflammatory arthritis that can affect anyone. The condition is the result of a build-up of too much uric acid which forms crystals.
Those tiny, hard, sharp crystals often migrate to the toe and deposit in a joint, typically in the big toe, heel, ankle, or knee. It is more prevalent in men than women, mainly because women tend to have lower uric acid levels.
It generally occurs after menopause in women, since women reach these uric acid levels only after menopause.
Symptoms of gout
The hallmark symptom of gout is pain that affects the joints. But for some people, life experienced during gout flare-ups includes ongoing fatigue and a general feeling of being unwell.
Gout symptoms are usually not noticeable unless you are experiencing a gout attack. These symptoms are most likely to manifest when a gout attack affects two or more joints.
Gout attacks typically last five to seven days, during which you will experience symptoms.
During an attack of gout, symptoms in the affected joint(s) may include:
- Intense debilitating pain
What triggers gout flareup?
You don’t want to experience another gout attack after you’ve already had one. To avoid gout attacks, you must first determine what is causing your symptoms.
Here’s a rundown of the usual suspects and what you should do about it.
Certain foods increase your body’s uric acid level. If you can avoid purine-rich foods and beverages, you may be able to avoid another flare. You should avoid the following foods:
- Red meat and seafood can be high in chemicals called purines. When your body breaks down these purines, the uric acid levels in your body go up. Instead, it is recommended that you should go for plant-based forms of protein or proteins low-fat dairy products, like skim milk, cheese, and yoghurt.
- Sweetened drinks that are flavoured with fruit sugars, like high-fructose corn syrup, can trigger gout flares. Avoid ice cream, candy, canned juices, cereal, and fast food. For a sweet substitute, it is recommended that you should switch to fruits, which won’t raise your odds of an attack.
- Alcohol. Liquor (like vodka and whiskey) and beer can make you more likely to have gout. So your best bet would limit how much you drink.
Certain kinds of medications can lead to elevated uric acid levels. These medications include:
- Certain water pills (diuretics) for high blood pressure and other conditions
- Certain drugs used to slow the immune system
Certain health conditions and treatments can also lead to elevated uric acid levels. These include:
- Excessive weight. You can protect yourself from another flare if you lose weight.
- Crash diets or fasting If you lose weight too quickly, you may increase your chances of having an attack.
- Hypertension and heart disease. These medical conditions increase your chances of developing gout, especially if you do not seek treatment.
- Some genetic predispositions combined with other risk factors or conditions — such as kidney disease or diabetes — cause uric acid to build up in the body and form crystals.
- Injuries or surgical procedures. A flare is more likely when your body is stressed or sick. Of course, you won’t always be able to avoid this trigger. If you must have surgery, make sure your doctor is aware that you have had gout in the past.
How can you prevent gout?
You can make certain simple lifestyle changes if you are at risk for gout.
- Drink plenty of water to help your kidneys function better and avoid dehydration
- Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight. Having extra weight in your body increases uric acid and puts additional pressure and stress on joints
- Do your best to limit the purines in your body, since these can trigger painful uric acid build-up
- Limit stress levels to prevent or reduce gout pain and attacks
While the symptoms of a gout attack usually resolve on their own, people are advised to seek medical attention.
Gout, if left untreated, can become chronic and cause long-term joint damage. A clinical examination by the physician is used to make a diagnosis.
Blood tests, urine tests, and medical imaging, such as x-rays and ultrasounds, may also be used to make a diagnosis.
You should also frequently opt for arthritis screening. This health check can provide you with a comprehensive insight into your health, allowing you to take necessary precautions to stay at the top of your health.