Gout
Last Edited: April 10th, 2012

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Gout

Gout is a form of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid in the bloodstream. As the acid builds up, particularly in joints, it forms crystals. These crystals in turn cause joints to swell and become inflamed. Gout most often affects toes, feet and ankles, but can be found in other parts of the body.

Too much uric acid is a result of two issues: a body that makes too much of the substance or a body than cannot adequately rid itself of the acid.

Stages and Types

Asymptomatic Hyperuricemia is the first stage. There are no visible symptoms at this point. Only a blood test can diagnose gout at this point

Acute Gouty Arthritis is the second stage and the first time a patient notices gout. Pain and swelling are the primary indicators.

Intercritical Gout is the time between attacks. The first incident generally goes away, but if the disease is not treated it does come back. Within 10 years of the first attack, 93 percent of people originally diagnosed with gout report another bout according to an article in the New Yorks Times health section.

Chronic Tophaceous Gout is long term untreated gout. The attacks come more frequently and last longer.

Kidney stones are a form of gout.

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of gout is not known according to research presented in U.S. National Library of Medicine. However, gout can run in families and is more common in men. Women will run to a higher incidence of this form of arthritis after menopause.

Doctors have also determined people who take hydrochlorothiazide and other water pills tend to have higher levels of uric acid in their blood streams than normal.

Gout is also found in conjunction with diseases like diabetes, leukemia and sickle cell anemia. Sometimes medicines used to treat these diseases will cause gout.

Long Term Issues

Untreated gout can lead to joint damage. In the kidney stone form, it can lead to kidney damage and eventual kidney failure.

Treatment

Nonsteroidal drugs are the first choice when symptoms begin. In cases of more severe pain, a health care provider may prescribe stronger painkillers for a few days.

Corticosteroids are also shown to be effective. These are injected directly into the affected joint.

Long term drug treatment is done with allopurinol or probenecid, both of which decrease uric acid levels in a body.

Purine-rich foods like anchovies, various oils, pork, organ meat, yeast, mushrooms, spinach and others should be rare additions to a meal. Alcohol, particularly beer, is linked to gout in especially in men. A dietician or health care provider will provide a gout sufferer with a list of foods to avoid.

Cranberry and lemon juice have shown some effectiveness in preventing gout and helping to dissolve kidney stones in particular.