Many people around the world have heard of gout, but really don’t know what it is. It is an illness that doctors have known about for a long time.
Commonly, however, gout was identified with wealthy people who over indulged in fatty foods. This misinformation has lead to a negative stigma being associated with the illness. Gout is actually an extremely painful condition which is caused by inflammation of the joints. Wrists and ankles, as well as hands and feet, are often afflicted. Many people also experience a swollen big toe on at least one foot.
Who Gets Gout?
Gout is caused when the body produces far too much uric acid. The typical swelling and pain that the disease is known for is a result of this build up of uric acid, causing crystals to form in the synovial joint. The general public, health care professionals and patients now understand that gout has nothing to do with gluttony. Thankfully the stigma is fading as people recognize just how painful this disease can be, and as people learn about the treatments, symptoms, and causes of gout.
How Do You Know if You Have Gout?
Many people who suffer with gout will tell you that the symptoms seemed to appear out of nowhere. This is one of the unfortunate trademarks of the disease. Symptoms can appear literally overnight. Patients report feelings of sudden pain, accompanied by swelling around the affected joint. The skin will turn a pinkish red, and appear to be shiny. Left untreated, these forms of “gout attack” can last for about a week. Another common symptom of gout is lumps that appear beneath the skin, especially around the heels, elbows and ears. The same uric acid crystals that cause pain and swelling in the joints will create these lumps, and may even create kidney stones.
For some people, these painful gout attacks are a one-time occurrence. Many others, however, will suffer with gout attacks at regular intervals. The pain and swelling will appear and subside every few months. If left untreated, the condition can persist and create permanent damage in the joints.
To ensure proper diagnosis, it is important to go to your doctor. You will likely have a physical exam and some tests to identify that you have gout, as opposed to another type of arthritis. It can be difficult to distinguish just from the physical exam. It may be necessary for you to have a blood test to see how much uric acid is in your blood. It is also possible that your doctor will wish to test the fluid in your joints to determine the presence of uric acid crystals.
How is Gout Treated?
Over half a million people in the United States suffer from gout. Fortunately, there are many different treatment options available to bring relief to these patients. Treatment of gout has a very strong success rate. The first step is usually for the doctor to prescribe medication, like allopurinol, to control the amount of uric acid produced by the body. Your doctor may also prescribe colchicines to help relieve the pain and inflammation caused by gout. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, are commonly given, however Aspirin is not a recommended treatment. Proper diet and exercise are also important factors in treating gout.
As with any medical condition, it’s important to speak with your doctor if you think you have gout. He or she will give you a proper physical assessment to verify your diagnosis, and then suggest a treatment program for you.