Gout is a type of arthritis that is caused by an excess of uric acid in the body. The body uses uric acid to help break down purines, a substance found in the body and in certain foods, such as organ meats, mushrooms, and anchovies. The kidneys eliminate uric acid in urine. A build-up of uric acid can occur if the kidneys do not remove enough of it or if the body over produces it. The surplus of uric acid causes needle-shaped urate crystals to form in the joints or surrounding tissues. The urate crystals cause pain and inflammation.Gout usually begins with sudden symptoms, frequently during the night. Gout most commonly develops in the big toe, but it can also occur in almost any joint. Gout causes significant pain and tenderness. The joint may appear red and swollen.
A joint fluid test is used to determine if urate crystals are in your joint fluid. Your doctor will use a needle to draw fluid from your joint for testing. Blood tests are used to test for the amount of uric acid in your blood. Your doctor will interpret the results of these tests to confirm a diagnosis of gout.Gout is treated with medications to relieve pain and inflammation, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, colchicine, and steroids. Your doctor may prescribe medications to decrease uric acid production in your body or to help your body remove uric acid. It may be helpful to limit foods that contain purines, such as red meat, and avoid drinking alcohol. It may be helpful to drink plenty of water to help the kidneys eliminate uric acid.
You may help prevent gout by avoiding alcohol. Avoid eating foods that are high in purines and limit the amount of protein from meat that you eat to about 5 or 6 ounces per day.
Gout most frequently develops in men between the ages of 40 and 50 years. Women who develop gout tend to do so after menopause when their levels of uric acid rise. Gout can be hereditary; meaning, if other people in your family have gout, your risk for the condition is increased.
Risk factors for gout include:
• Consuming alcohol
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol and high triglycerides
• Arteriosclerosis- Narrowing of the arteries
• Low-dose aspirin
• Certain diuretic medications (thiazide diuretics) and anti-rejection medications for organ transplant recipients