Gout

November 12, 2012

Gout

Gout is a form of arthritis that occurs due to the accumulation of uric acid in the blood. It can cause inflammation of the joints, and can be short-term or chronic.

Causes

Gout occurs when the uric acid levels in your body increase due to excessive production, or when your body is unable to remove the acid efficiently. The excessive uric acid gets accumulated in the synovial fluid of the joints, and causes the swelling and inflammation of the area. Gout usually runs in families. Other conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, obesity and leukemia may also increase your risk of gout symptoms. Foods such as animal meat, seafood, alcohol and products sweetened with fructose meal increase the chances with gout, along with certain medications such as painkillers, diuretics, niacin, Cyclosporine, and anti-tuberculosis drugs.

Gouty arthritis is a progressive disease that affects about 5 million individuals in the United States. It is more common in men. Women usually experience the symptoms of menopause.

Symptoms

Gout symptoms affect one or a few joints of the big toe, knee, or ankle joints. The throbbing, crushing, or excruciating pain starts suddenly, usually during the night. The joint appears warm, red and tender. The condition may also lead to fever but may go away in a few days. Many people may not experience any symptoms during the initial attacks. Others may develop chronic gout symptoms that lead to joint damage and loss of movement. Tophi, or chalky lumps, around joints may develop occasionally.

The asymptomatic phase of gout lasts for five to ten days. The patient may notice sudden changes in the joints of the knee, arm, ankles, wrists and palms. These symptoms may go away in 2 weeks without any treatment. The subsequent episodes may occur several months to several years after the initial attacks. The gout symptoms during these phases may become more intense and severe.

Diagnosis

Your doctor may perform thorough physical examination and analyze your family history. He or she may also recommend blood uric acid measurements and synovial fluid analysis to conform your gout symptoms.

Treatment

Treatment of gout symptoms should start immediately after the first attack. Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids and other pain killers may be prescribed to relieve pain and treat inflammation. Your doctor may also recommend medications to lower your uric acid levels. Avoiding alcohol, fatty foods, carbohydrates, and purine-rich foods such as anchovies, sardines, oils, herring, and organ meat may also help improve your gout symptoms.

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