The human body is a marvel of balance and equilibrium. When something is thrown off-kilter, disease or illness usually occurs. That’s exactly the case with gout, a painful arthritic condition that usually affects the big toe.
What Causes Gout?
Gout is caused by an imbalance of uric acid. All people process uric acid as a result of breaking down internal tissues and certain foods (animal proteins, asparagus, mushrooms, and others). During normal functioning, the kidneys excrete uric acid into the urine. However, some individuals have so much uric acid that it cannot all be excreted or the kidneys cannot function well enough to process normal amounts of uric acid.
In either case, the extra uric acid builds up in the body and forms needle-like crystal deposits around joints. This buildup quickly leads to painful gout attacks. The most common location for flare-ups is the big toe. Other gout sites include the ankles, knees, elbows, and fingers.
What Are The Symptoms of Gout?
An individual suffering from a gout flare up will have a sudden onset of pain, inflammation, stiffness, and redness at the affected joint. Patients usually experience the most severe pain within the first 24 hours of the attack. After that, symptoms may linger for three to ten days. Individuals may not experience another attack for several months. However, subsequent attacks are likely to be more severe.
How Is Gout Diagnosed?
Doctors may use one or two methods to diagnose gout. One option is to draw fluid from the affected joint. A lab tech will examine the fluid under a microscope and specifically look for uric acid crystals. The lab may also look for signs of infection, which could cause gout-like symptoms.
Another diagnostic option is a simple blood test. If the results show a high level of uric acid, it may or may not signal a gout diagnosis. Some gout sufferers have normal levels of uric acid. It is up to the doctor to evaluate all symptoms and tests in order to provide the best diagnosis.
How Is Gout Treated?
Treating gout can involve medical or natural remedies. Some popular options are listed below:
- NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, indomethacin) or Corticosteroids to control inflammation
- Colchicine to alleviate pain
- Allopurinol or Febuxostat to lower uric acid production
- Probenecid to improve kidney function
- Drink between eight and 16 cups of fluid every day
- Alter diet to minimize uric acid intake (avoid alcohol, animal proteins, and other gout-inducing foods)
- Eat foods that may help control uric acid levels (coffee, vitamin C, and cherries)
- Maintain a healthy weight and exercise routine
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