Facts About Gout

What is gout?

Gout is a type of arthritis caused by uric acid crystals that form in one or more joints. Uric acid is a substance that forms when the body breaks down a substance called purine. This substance normally dissolves in the blood and is evacuated through the kidneys into the urine. In people who have gout, uric acid builds up and can then form sharp crystals in the joint space. This causes pain and swelling in affected joints.

What is a gout attack?

The symptoms of gout can be sudden. Usually, it begins at night, often in the big toe joint (but can also occur in the joints of the feet, ankles, knees, hands and wrists). In the affected joint redness, warmth and pain. The joint hurts more when touched.

Who can develop gout?

If you eat too many foods high in purine, you may have higher risk of developing gout. Some of these foods are salmon, sardines, organ meats, asparagus, mushrooms and herring.

You are more likely to develop gout if you are overweight, if you drink excessive amounts of alcohol or have high cholesterol, diabetes or high blood pressure. Men develop gout more often than women. Women are more likely to develop gout after menopause. Gout is also hereditary.

Drugs that can cause gout include the following:

  • Certain diuretics ("water pills") used to treat high blood pressure.
  • Niacin (a B vitamin).
  • Aspirin (taken in low doses).
  • Cyclosporine, used to prevent the body from rejecting a new organ after transplant surgery.
  • Some drugs used to treat cancer.
  • Pyrazinamide and ethambutol, used to treat tuberculosis.

What should I do if I have a gout attack?

Your doctor may prescribe medication to help stop swelling and joint pain. With treatment, your gout attack should go away within a few days. During a gout attack, you should reduce the amount of animal protein you eat and completely avoid alcohol.

You should rest in bed during an attack of gout. Place an ice pack on the joint may relieve pain. The use of support of weight of clothes or bedding on the joint may also help. The medicines you can take without a prescription that reduce inflammation and pain could also help, such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Your doctor may also prescribe medicine.

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