The Grief of Gout

Posted on 04/06/2016

When you think of gout, most people assume we're talking about having a red, swollen big toe. It is, however, important to note that gout can affect almost any joint including ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and fingers. The important part to remember is that gout isn't a condition characterized by its location, but rather a more systemic condition that can affect many  tissues of the body. With that being said, the big toe is the area most commonly affected. 

Gout is a metabolic condition and is considered a form of arthritis. It is caused by an excess of Uric Acid. Uric acid causes little urate crystals to form, which eventually leads to intermittent episodes of inflammation and pain in joints. Most patients with gout develop the condition due to their kidneys not adequately clearing the uric acid from the body.  Uric acid levels are also partly affected by our diet. Foods that cause an increase in uric acid include: liver, seafood, red meat, asparagus and beer. Eating these foods in excess puts you at high risk for experiencing a gout attack. Persons already afflicted with gout should certainly steer clear of those foods.  Most patients with gout will need medications to manage this condition. 

Gout typically causes extreme joint discomfort that usually surfaces in sudden attacks. The first attack is usually so severe that those affected usually cannot bare any weight on the joint affected for a few days. After that, lingering joint pain is usually common, for up to a couple of weeks. We recommend seeking treatment as soon as sudden severe joint pain occurs. Some people may be able to bear the pain but long-term joint damage is possible if gout is recurrent and not treated. Gout could be a one-time occurrence, yet most people experience several "flare-ups" per year. If untreated, Urate crystals could  accumulate near the surface of the skin and cause what are known as Tophi.  Tophi are nodules under the skin and around the joints that can cause limited range of motion and possibly damage bones or joints. Untreated gout is also a common cause of kidney stones. 

Gout is most common in men and more common in African Americans than Caucasians. Women generally do not develop gout until after menopause. The chances of being affected by gout increase with age. Many other factors can contribute to gout. Obesity, certain medical conditions and family history are all factors that increase the risk of developing gout

Gout is certainly a manageable condition, however, we recommend seeking treatment the first time you suspect a gout flare up. It isn't worth the pain or the long-term damage to try and tough it out. For more information, please call us at 317.844.6444