WHAT IS GOUT ?
Several of my clients have gout and as I didn’t really know what it is was I decided to research it and share my findings with you, in lay mans terms.
What is Gout ? It is caused by a build-up of uric acid in the blood. It is a waste product made in the body daily and excreted mainly via the kidneys. Uric acid forms when the body breaks down chemicals in the cells known as purines.
When the body produces excess uric acid or you excrete too little with urination it builds up and can cause tiny crystals to form in and around joints.
These crystals are hard, needle-shaped crystals which build up slowly over several years.
The two main goals in treating gout are to
- relieve symptoms during an attack of gout. Usually non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are used.
- prevent future gout attacks by combining lifestyle changes such as losing weight if needed and taking a medication called allopurinol to lower levels of uric acid.
When the medication is taken as prescribed along with lifestyle changes, such as changing your diet and drinking less alcohol, many people find their uric acid levels reduce enough and over time and dissolve the crystals that cause gout.
The crystals may cause two problems:
- They may spill over into the soft lining of the joint causing the pain and inflammation associated with gout.
- Some crystals form hard, slowly expanding lumps of crystals which can cause damage to the joint and nearby bone; leading eventually to irreversible joint damage which causes pain and stiffness when the joint is being used.
Factors increasing your risk of gout are:
- Age and sex, gout is more common when you are older and is far more likely in men
- Being overweight
- High blood pressure and diabetes increase the risk of suffering from gout
- Hereditary predisposition, (gout often runs in families)
- Having long-term kidney problems that reduce the elimination of uric acid
- Eating a diet rich in purines caused by frequently eating sardines and liver
- Consuming excess beer or spirits – these types of alcoholic drinks contain relatively high levels of purines
If you suspect you or someone you care for may have gout then it is sensible to visit your Doctor.