When I was a nursing student back in the 60’s, one of the first patients I cared for had a condition called gout.
Gout is characterized by acute attacks of pain, redness, and tenderness in certain joints, usually it is the big toe. Gout is a complex form of arthritis. It consists of a build-up of uric acid in the blood leading to the formation of crystals in a joint.
In acute attacks, gout may awaken you in the middle of the night with the sensation that your big toe is “on fire.” The affected join is hot, swollen and tender. Fortunately, gout is treatable. And there are ways to reduce the risk that gout will reoccur.
And reoccur it most probably will if left untreated.
Signs and symptoms of gout include the following:
- Intense joint pain. Gout usually occurs in the big toe but it may be in a joint of the ankle, hands, and wrists. The pain is most severe the first 24 to 48 hours.
- Lingering discomfort. Some joint discomfort may persist for weeks. Later attacks may last longer and include more joints.
- Inflammation and redness. The affected joint or joints are red, hot and inflamed.
Gout should be treated soon after being discovered. Untreated gout gets much worse.
The cause of gout is the accumulation of gout crystals in a joint and occurs when there is a high uric acid level in the blood.
Normally uric acid levels in the blood are excreted in the urine.Sometimes however your body produces too much or your kidneys excrete too little. When this happens, uric acid levels may build up forming uric acid crystals in the joint and surrounding tissues.
Prevention and treatment consists of the following:
- Get most of your protein from dairy products.
- Drink plenty of fluids with about half being water.
- Limit or avoid alcohol
- Limit you intake of fish, meat, and poultry.
- Maintain a desirable body weight.
Vitamin C and coffee are both substances that lower Uric acid levels. Vitamin C should not be increased without the consent of your doctor, generally eating fruits and vegetables will suffice. And the evidence that coffee lowers uric acid levels is not enough to make non-coffee drinkers start drinking coffee. Cherries are also known to bring down levels of uric acid.
People with gout are susceptible to complications such as recurrent episodes of gout. Untreated gout may cause the build-up of deposits of uric acid crystals under the skin. These are nodules called tophi. They may not be painful but in episodes of a flare-up of gout they may become swollen and tender. Kidney stones may also form if crystals collect in the urinary tract.
Some medical conditions make it more likely you’ll get gout such as untreated hypertension and chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and narrowing of the arteries.
You are also more likely to have gout if other members of your family have gout.
Gout occurs more often in men rather than in women.