We all know how painful it is to stub our toe. In my case it leads to very bad language. Now try to imagine having a swollen, throbbing, inflamed toe that hurts if it's just touched by a bed sheet. That's gout pain, and it leads to a whole new vocabulary.
Rather than bumping into a piece of furniture, a build-up of uric acid in the blood causes gout. We generate uric acid during the normal digestion of food and from cell turnover. If you produce too much or have a problem eliminating uric acid in the urine, the excess can form crystals that get deposited in the joints or form kidney stones or can lead to arthritis.
Who Gets Gout
- Family history – you have a 20% chance of developing gout if your parents had it
- British heritage – British people are five times more likely to develop gout than non-Brits
- Alcohol abuse – overindulgence in alcohol, especially beer, increases your risk for gout
- Obese – Being overweight or obese increaes risk, losing weight reduces it
- Menopause – Uric acid levels increase in women after menopause
- Dehydration – Can be caused by diuretics and anti-hypertensive medications
- Nicotinic acid – Also known as Niacin or Vitamin B3, it is used to lower cholesterol and triglycerides
- Trauma – An attack can be triggered by severe injury, sudden illness, having surgery
How to Treat Gout
The remedy once you have gout may be as simple as taking an over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen (Advil®) or naproxen (Aleve®) to reduce the inflammation and relieve the pain. You do not want to take aspirin, however, because it can trigger attacks. If you are unable to take NSAIDS, you may get relief from colchicine (Colcrys®), but it should be taken within the first 12 hours of an acute attack for best results. If that is not effective, your physician may prescribe a corticosteroid, such as prednisone.
For those who experience regular episodes of gout, there are medications that can be taken on a daily basis to reduce the frequency and severity of your attacks. Some help by blocking uric acid production while others improve your ability to remove it from your body. The most recently approved medication to treat gout helps reduce uric acid crystals in the joints and tissues.
Staying well-hydrated is an important way to both prevent gout and treat it once an attack begins. At the same time, it is necessary to reduce alcohol consumption, especially beer, since it interferes with the elimination of uric acid from your body.
Changes in diet can help limit uric acid production but cannot lower the uric acid concentration in your blood enough to treat the gout without medication. The key dietary recommendations are to:
- Limit animal protein foods to 4-6 ounces daily and avoid organ meats, beef, lamb, pork, herring, sardines, mackerel, lobster, shrimp, scallops, and tuna
- Limit concentrated sources of fructose, such as full-strength fruit juices, dried fruit, and sugar-sweetened beverages or those sweetened with high fructose corn syrup
- Choose low-fat or fat-free milk and dairy products
I've never had gout, but knowing how painful it is provides me with one more reason to continue my healthy lifestyle and maintain my weight.
What would you swear to do to avoid the pain of gout?