Gout is a form of arthritis affecting nearly 8 million Americans. The condition tends to affect men more often than women, but it is an issue almost anyone can develop. Understanding the condition and why it develops can help you to not only get the treatment you need, but also take measures to prevent it from happening in the first place.
There are actions you can take at home, but you may also need to see us here at Advanced Foot and Ankle for professional care as well.
Gout develops when urate crystals have built up in a joint and then cause inflammation and intense pain. Urate crystals build up over time when there is excessive uric acid in the bloodstream. Uric acid is a byproduct of food breakdown, particularly when the body breaks down purines (a naturally occurring substance found in various foods). Normally, the uric acid dissolves, is passed through the kidneys and expelled by urination. But when the body produces too much uric acid, it starts to build up, ultimately forming sharp, needle-like crystals.
Gout Symptoms and Stages
Symptoms of gout can have a sudden onset and are more likely to happen at night and without any warning. They include intense joint pain, lingering discomfort, redness, inflammation, and limited range of motion for affected joints. The joint most commonly affected by gout is the metatarsophalangeal joint of the big toe (where the toe connects to the foot).
The various stages of gout include:
- Asymptomatic hyperuricemia – This is the period before the initial gout flare. Symptoms have not appeared yet, but uric acid levels in your blood are heightened and crystals are starting to form in your joints.
- Acute gout (gout flare) – When uric acid levels spike or the uric crystals are jostled, a gout flare can be triggered. This is marked by pain and inflammation, typically at night, and can intensify over the next eight to twelve hours. Some people will only experience a single gout flare, but over half have a second one within a year.
- Interval gout – This refers to the time between gout flares. Even though there is no pain during this time, the gout is not gone. There is likely low-level inflammation which can cause damage to affected joints. At this time, you should take measures to manage the condition with medication and dietary changes to prevent future attacks or chronic gout.
- Chronic gout – At this stage, uric acid levels have been high for several years and gout flares are frequent. Joint damage likely occurs and pain does not go away like it previously would.
Treating Gout – At Home and Professional Care
When it comes to treating gout symptoms, the most effective treatment is the use of medication. There are two goals of medications – treat gout attacks and prevent gout complications. Some of the drugs used to treat (and prevent) attacks include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, colchicine, and corticosteroids. Medication to prevent complications either block uric acid production or improve uric acid removal, both of which can keep uric acid from building up in the blood stream.
In addition to medications, you can also adopt some lifestyle changes and home remedies to not only treat an existing case of gout, but to also prevent the condition from developing in the first place. Basically, this is centered on making different dietary choices like limiting or avoiding foods high in purines (red meats, seafood, complex carbohydrates, alcohol, etc.) and drinking plenty of water or unsweetened tea.
You can reduce your risk of gout by establishing a regular diet consisting of whole grains, legumes, fruits, veggies, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. Exercising on a regular basis and losing weight can also lower your risk. If you’d like help with any of this, let us know and we will be glad to assist.