Gout: What is it, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Gout is a painful inflammation of the joints. When your body has an excess of uric acid, sharp crystals form and settle in the big toe or other joints.It sometimes results in sudden and severe pain, tenderness and swelling and that condition is known as a gout attack. Gout can be treated with medications and lifestyle changes.
Gout is a common form of arthritis and it can attack anyone as it usually occurs earlier in men than in women. It usually occurs in women after menopause. Men can be three times more likely to be affected than women because they have higher uric acid levels for most of their lives.
People are more likely to acquire gout if they have
● Hypertension (high blood pressure)
● Kidney disease
● Heart failure
● Family history of gout
Symptoms of Gout
Signs and symptoms of gout always appear suddenly and often at night. They include:
Severe joint pain-
Gout usually affects the big toe but can affect any joint. Other joints that are usually affected are the knees, elbows, ankles, wrists, and fingers.
Inflammation and redness-
Redness, swelling and itching are the signs of gout that can be seen on joints.
Once the most severe pain has subsided, joint problems can last from a few days to a few weeks. Subsequent attacks tend to last longer and affect more joints.
Range of motion-
As gout worsens, you may not be able to move your joints normally.
Causes of Gout
Hyperuricemia, an excess of uric acid in the blood, is a major cause of gout.Uric acid is formed when the body breaks down a chemical called purines.. Consumption of Meat, poultry and seafood are major causes of Hyperuricemia since they contain high levels of purines.
Uric acid dissolves in the blood and is excreted from the body through the kidneys in the form of urine. When a person produces too much uric acid or doesn't excrete it enough, uric acid can build up and form needle-like crystals. These crystals then settle down in the joints where they form gouts.These can cause inflammation and pain in the joints and surrounding tissues.
Risk factors of Gout
Factors that increases the uric acid level in your body are:
● Family history of gout-
If members of the family have been affected by gout, you are more likely to get the disease.
Some medications can affect your kidney’s ability to properly remove uric acid. These include diuretics, also known as water pills, and some high blood pressure pills, including beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors.
If you are overweight, your body produces more uric acid and your kidneys take time getting rid of uric acid.
A diet high in red meat and shellfish and drinking fructose-sweetened beverages raise uric acid levels, which increases the risk of gout. Alcohol consumption also increases the risk of gout.
● Recent surgery or trauma-
Having recent surgery or trauma can sometimes lead to a gout attack. In some people, vaccination can trigger a gout attack.
How is gout treated?
- NSAIDscan reduce pain and swelling. Some people with kidney disease, heartburn, and other health problems cannot take NSAIDs.
- Colchicine can reduce inflammation and pain when taken within 24 hours of a gout attack. It is given orally.
- Corticosteroidscan reduce pain and swelling. You take steroids orally or by injection.
- Drugs like Allopurinol, Pegloticase, Febuxostat and Probenecid lowers the risk of gout attack.
- Ayurvedic remedies like Triphala, Giloy, Neem, turmeric, Ginger etc and vatahara as well as rakta prasadaka measures like shodhana and siravyadha(bloodletting) can be proved effective.
Prevention methods for Gout
Gout can be prevented by taking certain precautions-
Drink plenty of water to improve kidney function and avoid dehydration.
Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight. Extra weight increases uric acid in your body and puts stress on your joints.
Avoid alcohol, shellfish and protein from animal sources.
Avoid taking drugs like Diuretics and immunosuppressants as these can increase uric acid levels.
Home remedies for Gout
Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties which reduces pain related to uric acid in gout. For this, drink a cup of ginger tea or boil a tablespoon of grated fresh ginger, then soak a clean cloth in the mixture and apply it to the affected joints for up to 30 minutes.
Bananas contain high levels of potassium that may help prevent gout and Bananas also contain an adequate amount of fiber, which can help remove uric acid from the body.
Hibiscus may be effective in lowering uric acid levels, which can reduce the risk of gout. To prevent gout attacks, try drinking hibiscus tea.
Eating apples can help lower uric acid levels naturally and prevent gout attacks.
Cherries are naturally anti-inflammatory and help reduce swelling easily associated with gout.
Celery seed extract is recommended as a home remedy for gout as it contains luteolin that can help to reduce uric acid levels.
When to visit the doctor?
If you are struggling with severe pain, swelling, redness and heat that usually indicate the presence of gout. Symptoms of a gout attack can include a low-grade fever, but a higher temperature can be a sign of infection, and you should see a doctor.