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Gout: Signs and Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Risks

A common form of arthritis, gout occurs when a person experiences a severe and sudden attack of swelling, redness, tenderness, and pain within their joints, most often occurring within one’s big toe. In fact, a person’s joint is so tender, hot, and swollen that even something as light as a bed sheet atop the joint can feel unbearable.

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Signs and Symptoms

Gout sufferers generally see signs of the condition pop up at night, and they almost always happen rather suddenly. Symptoms include:

Joint Pain: While gout generally occurs in the joint of one’s big toe, it can really occur in any joint within the body, including ankles, elbows, fingers, wrists, and knees.

Redness and Inflammation: The joint(s) affected by gout will become warm, red, tender, and swollen.

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Range of Motion: As the condition progresses, a person will not be able to move their joints as they normally would.

Should you experience any of the above symptoms, it is vital to call your doctor or seek medical attention. When gout goes untreated, it can only worsen in pain and damage joints. Medical care should be sought as soon as possible if you have a joint that is hot and inflamed, along with a fever, as this could be a sign of infection.

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Causes

When urate crystals gather in the joints, gout occurs, resulting in intense pain and inflammation. These crystals form due to increased levels of uric acid within the blood.

The body creates uric acid when it breaks down substances, referred to as purines, which naturally are found in the body. Purines can also be found in specific foods like organ meats, seafood, and steak. Other things that offer enhanced uric acid levels include: alcoholic beverages (beer especially), and sweetened drinks with fruit sugar (fructose).

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Under normal circumstances, uric acid dissolves within the blood, and will pass through a person’s kidneys into urine; however, when the body creates high levels of uric acid, or the kidneys excrete too little of it, it can build up, causing needle-like and sharp crystal to develop on a joint or its surrounding tissue. This creates the inflammation, pain, and swelling that gout is known for.

Treatment

Gout treatments generally involve medication, and your doctor will choose the best option based on your case and current health condition. Prescription medication can not only help with gout flare ups, but also to avoid future attacks.

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While meds are an effective way to treat the condition, making changes to your lifestyle can also make a huge impact, especially if gout becomes a reoccurring theme in your life. Some things a person can do to prevent or treat gout (along with medication), include:

  • Limit food consumption around items high in purines, like organ meats, seafood, and red meat.
  • Limit alcoholic drinks (especially beer), and those bevvies that are sweetened with fructose.
  • Increase your water intake.
  • Maintain a healthy weight by exercise and healthy eating.

Risk factors

There are certain risk factors around gout; things that can create increased levels of uric acid in the body. They include:

Diet: As mentioned above, consuming increased levels of seafood and meat within your diet will increase your uric acid levels, and thus, increase your chances around developing gout. Increased consumption of drinks sweetened with sweetened with fructose, as well as alcohol consumption, especially of beer, also enhances your chances around gout.

Medical History: Specific conditions, like untreated high blood pressure, as well as and chronic illnesses like metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney and heart diseases, can increases the risks around gout.

Overweight/Obesity: Those who are overweight or obese tend to produce added uric acid. Additionally, the kidneys have a harder time releasing uric acid.

Medications: Certain medications, such as thiazide diuretics that are regularly used for hypertension, as well as low-dose aspirin, can enhance levels of uric acid. Individuals who have had an organ transplant and need to take anti-rejection meds are also at an additional risk.

Family History: Those who have family members that have had gout, increase their chances around the condition. 

Trauma or Surgery: Those who have had a recent trauma or surgery are at a great risk of getting gout.

Gender and Age: While gout tends to develop more in men, as women generally have decreased levels of uric acid, after menopause, a female’s uric acid levels hit the same numbers as their male counterparts. Therefore, men are likelier to develop gout between the ages of 30 and 50, while women are more susceptible to the illness after menopause.

Source

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gout/symptoms-causes/syc-20372897

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gout/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20372903

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