Gout is a common form of arthritis, characterized by sudden and severe attacks of pain, swelling, redness and tenderness. Gout commonly occurs in the big toe, although gout is not limited to the toes and feet. It may also occur in the:
Although the most severe pain associated with an attack often comes on suddenly and at night. The discomfort may linger for days to weeks. Gout inhibits daily activities due to inflammation, redness and reduction in the range of motion of the affected joint. Left untreated gout may lead to pain and potentially life long joint damage.
What Causes Gout?
Urate crystals forming in your blood and settling in your joints cause gout, these crystals form when you have high levels of uric acid in your blood. Uric acid forms when your body breaks down purines. Purines are found naturally in our bodies, and are also found in food. Some foods contain more purines than others, a list of high purine foods follows. When our systems produce too much uric acid, or our kidneys don’t process enough uric acid, sharp needle like crystals form, settle in the joint and produce pain, swelling, redness and inflammation.
Gout Risk Factors
There are many risk factors for developing gout including:
- Middle aged men and postmenopausal woman have the highest risk.
- Family history.
- Drinking alcohol increases your risk.
- Metabolic disorders including high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, and thyroid disease.
- Sleep apnea.
- Certain medications including medications used to treat metabolic disorders, some immunosuppressant drugs, Niacin, and medications used to treat Parkinson’s Disease.
- Diets high in high purine foods, which include organ meats, red meat, oily fish, beans, mushrooms, cauliflower and asparagus.
The treatment options that you have for gout depend on the stage and severity of your arthritis. The first step is to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with the attack. Next, work on preventing future attacks, by lowering the amount of uric acid levels in your body. Traditional medical doctors will often recommend NSAIDs, and steroids to reduce pain and inflammation, along with other arthritis medications.
Lifestyle Changes Can Help
Make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of developing gout and help to reduce future events if you have had an attack. Some changes to make today include:
- Reduce your alcohol intake.
- Lose weight
- Quit smoking
- Avoid high purine foods.
Some home treatments include:
- Acupuncture treatments may help.
- Hot and cold compresses on the affected area work together to reduce pain and inflammation
- Add dark colored fruit into your diet. For example, tart cherries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and red grapes are all excellent additions to your diet.
- Coffee in moderate amounts may lower risk.
- Turmeric, ginger and bromelain, all may be useful in treating gout, due to the fact that they reduce overall inflammation in your body.
- Magnesium glycinate helps chronic pain, muscle flexibility and bones and as a byproduct may help reduce inflammation.
To learn more about Dr. Cushing, read his biography here.