Gout is a unique form of arthritis, and it’s excruciating. Some people only have one or two monthly flares, so they don’t consider it a chronic problem. However, other people have flares galore, leaving them wondering whether it’s become permanent.
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Gout is an inflammatory response, but it’s also caused by a second culprit known as uric acid crystallization. Your bones are rather sensitive, so imagine hard crystals forming between them, and this helps you understand the pain.
Moreover, anyone can get gout if they follow an unhealthy life filled with the wrong foods and lifestyle choices. Young and old can suffer from this awful condition, so you need to learn more about it to determine whether you have gout.
What Is Gout?
Gout is one more inflammatory response from an autoimmune malfunction. It can be acute or chronic, depending on the frequency of attacks. It often starts in the big toe, but it can also affect the knees, shoulders, hands, ankles, and any joint.
How Is It Diagnosed?
There are various methods used to diagnose gout.
- Informing your doctor about the frequency is crucial. Anyone who has recurrent flares two or more times per year should discuss the possibility of having gout with their physician.
- Radiography is another method because gout can present as a crystallized cluster called subcutaneous tophus, which can show on x-rays. Tophi can range from small clusters to fist-sized balls.
- Aspirated fluid can also be removed from the swollen joint for laboratory testing. Please note that this is a painful procedure, but it will help confirm the presence of gout.
- A physical exam can also reveal redness, swelling, and warmth around a joint.
Whichever test you experience, the important thing is that it is done while you’re experiencing a flare. For example, your physician might also ask about your history, symptoms, and previous flares.
Understanding what symptoms are caused by gout can help you assist your physician in the diagnosis. When you’re aware of this information, it can help your doctor treat you more efficiently and accurately.
The common symptoms include:
- Severe pain
- Joint tenderness
Uncommon symptoms may include:
- Light fever
- Lower-back pain
- Wrist pain
- Areas of discomfort near tophi formations
Gout can strike gradually or suddenly, waking you up from a deep sleep. The flares don’t wait until morning to bother you, but there are things you can try to do to prevent gout flares.
What Causes Gout?
Gout can be caused by the same factors that promote other kinds of arthritis. Inflammation certainly plays a role, as do the factors that cause it. Additional causal factors for gout include:
- Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
- Lead exposure
- Medications that contain salicylate and commonly prescribed diuretics or cyclosporine
- Alcohol consumption
- Chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes
Middle-aged men are also more at risk than women unless women are postmenopausal. Low hormone levels can lead to gout attacks as well.
Even though gout causes can be many, the most prevalent reason for it is hyperuricemia, which is high uric acid.
Hyperuricemia is a condition where your body has high uric acid levels, causing painful and hardened crystals around your joints.
Your body already has uric acid, which is supposed to break down purines in the bloodstream after you eat. However, eating more purines than your body can cause hyperuricemia.
Other severe conditions caused by hyperuricemia are cardiovascular diseases, metabolic acidosis, diabetes, and renal failure.
Just as the immune system can turn into a foe when overworked, the same can happen with uric acid levels. The kidneys are supposed to excrete the purines and excess uric acid from your body.
Patients with kidney failure have an increased risk of hyperuricemia because they’ve lost the ability to cleanse the body efficiently.
The kidneys are a central component of the immune system and flush other toxins from your body. The overproduction of uric acid after eating too many purines will create monosodium urate, the crystals that stick to the joints.
Avoiding the lose/lose situation of chronic gout is eating the right foods, having an active lifestyle, and avoiding triggers.
There are also simple but effective treatments to lower uric acid that don’t involve doctors, medications, or expensive therapies. Sometimes, you need a little natural help to decrease the pain and flare-ups.
Gout is common among people who fail to look after their kidneys and keep their diets purine-friendly, but it can be managed to avoid a painful experience.
There’s no doubt that gout is a thorn in your side, or should you say, a thorn in your toes?