Gout is inflammatory arthritis that affects mostly older men. It is caused by a build up of uric acid, which is a normal acid in the blood stream. Uric acid is usually dissolved in the blood and passed out through the kidneys, but a build up of gout causes urate crystals to form around joints.
An excess of uric acid, hyperuricemia, sometimes causes no pain. Once levels get severely high, crystals form in the joints. If not controlled, gout can cause serious damage to the joints and tendons.
What Are The Symptoms Of Gout?
Gout is fairly common and is characterized by intense joint pain, sometimes so severe that the weight of a sheet can hurt. It usually occurs in the toes, ankles, feet, knees, wrists and hands. Attacks of gout can last only a day or two, or up to a week or more then seemingly disappear. The joints will appear red and inflamed and may be accompanied by a fever.
Heat Can Worsen Gout Pain
A recent study has shown that heat can worsen gout pain. In fact, high temperatures almost double a person's risk of a gout attack. Men with a history of gout were studied, and in temperatures of 87 to 105 F their risk of gout doubled. This is assumed to be due to a loss of fluids as increased water intake can rid your body of uric acids.
What Else Can Cause Flare-ups?
A number of factors can cause gout flare-ups. Obesity, alcohol use, high purine diets, low calorie diets and surgery can trigger a flare. Some major illnesses such as high blood pressure, lead poisoning, hypothyroidism and kidney disease are known to trigger gout. Certain medications especially those containing aspirin, diuretics, immune system suppressants and chemotherapy will increase your risk of gout.
Can Gout Be Prevented?
Since the build up of uric acid may take years, you may not know you are at risk for gout. There is no diet that will prevent gout, but certain diet changes may relieve flare-ups of gout. Reduce the amount of red meat and seafood in your diet and avoid alcohol. Eat low-fat dairy products and complex carbohydrates or whole grains. Losing weight will alleviate gout attacks.
Medications for Gout
There are medications that can treat gout. Some medicines block uric acid production by limiting the amout your body makes. Other medications help your body remove uric acid and thereby reduce risk of gout, but these can cause a rash, stomach pain and kidney stones. Your doctor will tell you if you need these medications.