Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that occurs when too much uric acid builds up in the body. It is one of the most common and painful forms of arthritis and the most common form of arthritis in men.
When uric acid accumulates in the form of crystals in the tissue and joints, it can lead to acute, intense episodes of pain in a joint. Gout normally affects one joint at a time, usually the big toe, but can also appear in other joint areas, such as the knees or ankles. Painful episodes of gout can be either chronic or intermittent, and gout may flare up suddenly after days or weeks of inactivity. After an episode of gout, some residual joint pain may be present and will eventually subside. However, subsequent episodes of gout may last longer and can affect more than one joint at a time.
There are many risk factors for gout, including male gender, being overweight, drinking excess alcohol, and a diet of foods that contain purines, lead exposure and organ transplant as well as taking niacin, diuretics, cyclosporine, aspirin or levodopa. A physician will diagnose gout through blood tests, joint fluid tests and musculoskeletal ultrasound to detect the uric acid levels in your body as well as radiographs to evaluate whether a patient may have other causes of joint inflammation.
The key to the management of gout is to treat acute attacks maintain low uric acid levels. Acute gout attacks are normally managed through taking NSAIDs, corticosteroids like prednisone, and colchicine. Medications that help maintain low uric acid levels include allopurinol and febuxostat, while probenecid helps the kidneys remove uric acid more efficiently.
Eating food and drinks that promote the breaking down of purines, such as seafood, steak, alcoholic beverages and fruit juices, will increase uric acid levels. Avoiding these food and drinks or limiting them in the diet helps maintain low uric acid levels. Other methods of reducing the risk of gout include exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy body weight.