Gout is a disease that affects around 9.2 million people in the United States (about 3.9 percent of the adult population). It’s more common in men and the elderly.
Gout: What Is It?
Gout is a type of arthritis that occurs when uric acid crystals build up in the body.
Gout can cause short-term inflammation of one or more joints (a gout flare), and in very bad cases, it can cause long-term damage to the joints (chronic gouty arthritis). Uric acid crystals can also produce tophi, which are hard lumpy deposits in the skin.
How Common Is Gout?
Approximately 9.2 million people in the United States alone are affected by gout (about 3.9 percent of the adult population). It’s more common in men and the elderly.
What Causes Gout?
Gout patients have excessive levels of uric acid in their blood, a chemical formed during the digestion of certain meals and beverages (such as redmeat, seafood, alcohol, and sugary drinks).
Most individuals with high uric acid levels, on the other hand, do not get gout. Metabolic and genetic factors, obesity, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, and certain drugs are all risk factors for gout (diuretics).
Gout Flare Signs and Symptoms
A gout flare normally lasts a few hours and is characterized by pain, redness, warmth, and swelling in a joint caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals. A gout flare usually affects just one joint (the big toe), but it can also affect many joints, such as those in the feet, ankles, knees, and wrists. A gout flare lasts several days for most people, and it usually goes away after two weeks if they don’t take any medication. Repeated assaults can cause joint damage over time, leading to persistent gouty arthritis.
A medical expert will usually diagnose gout after reviewing a patient’s medical history and doing a physical examination. Urine levels can be checked in the blood, and x-ray scans can be used to check for arthritis in the joint. Fluid from a swollen joint is sometimes taken to test for uric acid crystals under a microscope.
Unfortunately, gout has no cure. Gout flare-ups, on the other hand, can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications (suchas colchicine, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs] like ibuprofen, or oral steroids).
These medications can help with acute pain and swelling, and they’re usually taken for a few days to weeks until the flare has passed. Medications that lower uric acid levels in the body (such as allopurinol, febuxostat, and probenecid) may be used to reduce the risk of subsequent gout flares. These medications are taken for a long time.
Gout Risk Factors
Alcohol, sugary beverages, and meals that raise uric acid levels should be avoided by dietary adjustments (red meat or seafood).
Weight loss reduces uric acid levels and alleviates gout symptoms in overweight or obese patients with gout. Gout flares can also be prevented by controlling high blood pressure, using diuretics carefully, and staying hydrated.
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