Gout is one of the most common forms of inflammatory arthritis causing swelling and irritation in the joints and can be extremely painful. Although what causes gout is well known, the condition can still be difficult to prevent, diagnose and treat.
The main cause of gout is a build-up of uric acid in the body. Uric acid is formed when certain chemical compounds called purines are broken down in the body. The acid forms into crystals that collect in the joints, most commonly in the big toe and the feet although all the joints in the body can become affected.
The body’s immune system responds to the presence of these crystals which results in the inflammation and swelling. The crystals and inflammation result in pain, irritation and may even limit or restrict movement in the affected joints.
A variety of different foods contain purines and avoiding these foods or beverages and consuming them in moderation can help prevent gout and is the main part of a treatment program. Eliminating or reducing alcohol intake as well as all types of red meat and especially organ meat like kidneys, liver, etc.
Diagnosis is complicated as the symptoms of gout are similar to those of many other illnesses or health conditions. In addition, not every person who has a high level of uric acid in the body suffers from gout. A simple blood test to evaluate uric acid levels is therefore insufficient.
The main diagnostic tool is to draw fluid from an affected joint and test for uric acid crystals in the fluid. The presence of these crystals will confirm a diagnosis of gout.
Because this is a fairly common health condition, people often take it for granted how debilitating and serious gout can be. The pain can limit the ability to function and perform normal daily activities. The inflammation can severely limit movement and may become visible, presenting in large swollen joints.
The presence of gout may also point to some other more serious and painful health conditions that are caused by the build-up of uric acid such as kidney stones. It is very important to get a diagnosis and treatment for gout as soon as possible to prevent the condition from becoming aggravated and associated conditions from appearing.
Treatment for gout involves lifestyle changes including implementing a diet that is low in purines. Medication to treat the symptoms may also be prescribed and these normally consist of an anti-inflammatory to bring down the swelling as well as pain relief drugs.
Medication to reduce the formation of uric acid in the body may also form part of a treatment plan. There are also drugs available to improve kidney function in order to aid in the removal of uric acid from the body. An acute gout attack can last anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks and can be extreme for a period of 12 to 24 hours. It is important to understand what causes gout in order to prevent and treat the condition successfully.