Thursday, 18 September 2014

Understanding Gout

Gout is a type of arthritis and contrary to popular belief, it does not only affect the elderly. While it is more common among those over 30, people of any age can suffer from this condition. Gout is caused by an excess of uric acid in the blood. Generally speaking a high level of uric acid is not harmful. But when the levels become too high, the acid may form hard crystals in the joint. When this happens attacks of severe burning pain, swelling  and stiffness of the joint may occur. While gout can affect any joint, the most common place of it to strike in in the big toe. While both men and women can be affected by gout, it is more common in men.

Causes and Symptoms

There are many things that can cause gout to develop, but the most common are being overweight, drinking too much alcohol and consuming excessive amounts of meat and fish that have a high content of Purines and other chemicals. Certain types of medications, including prolonged use of diuretics can also lead to the development of gout.

The most common symptoms of gout are a sudden attack of pain, swelling, tenderness and redness of the big toe, although the attack may occur in other joints including the foot, ankles and knees. The duration of the attacks can vary from a few days to a few weeks. Once the attack has passed there is no way of knowing when the next one will occur; it could be days, weeks months or even years.

Treatment

Gout is not a condition that can be self-medicated. It is imperative that the patient be examined by a podiatrist. The doctor will do a physical exam and also often take a sample of fluid from the effected joint to determine the uric acid level and the amount of crystal formation. Once the condition has been accurately diagnosed, the doctor may prescribe an injection of corticosteroid or a large daily dose of a combination of medicines. And the medication begins to take effect and the symptoms lessen, the medication dosage will typically also be reduced. In many cases the relief will commence within 24 hours of the start of the treatment.

It is essential that the affected foot should be rested during a gout attack. With a doctors approval, over the counter pain killers and anti-inflammatory medication can be taken. But aspirin is strongly contraindicated. This can increase the uric acid levels in the blood. The use of an icepack to reduce swelling can be done if approved by the doctor.

Living With Gout

Once the attack has been brought under control normal activities can commence. The doctor may prescribe a course of medication to reduce the buildup of uric acid in the blood. In addition to this, proper diet can help in managing the condition. Eating moderately, control weight and eating a healthy mix of various food types will control the uric acid levels. In addition to this a reduced, and strictly monitored consumption of seafood, meat and alcohol is important. Drinking lots of water and other fluids regularly will help to flush the excess uric acid out of the system.

Gout can be a debilitating medical condition that can affect the a patient’s lifestyle. But with proper medication and care on the part of the person suffering from the condition, it can be controlled and the impact on the quality of life minimized.

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