Gout: Causes, Symptoms, Complications and Prevention

Gout

Gout is a form of arthritis that is very common but quite complex. It can affect anyone, and it is not limited to any age group. Gout is a term that is used to describe the different kind of conditions that accompany the build-up of uric acid in the joint.

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This build up mostly affects the joints in the foot and it usually causes swelling and severe pains around the affected area. The pains can be so intense such that it feels as if your leg is on fire. This particularly happens when the swelling compresses a nerve in your body. Most times the pain comes at night and the area begins to feel very hot.

When there is severe gout, there will be severe pains on several joints in the body. When this condition occurs, it is known as polyarticular gout. When there is an accumulation of uric acid crystals in the tissues of the body or too much uric acid in the blood stream, gout will occur.

Uric acids are gotten from the breakdown of a certain compound found in protein known as purines. Purines are mostly found in foods such as steak, organ meats, and sea foods (like crabs, prawns etc).

Some other types of food that increases the amount of uric acid in the body include flavoured and sweetened drinks and also alcoholic drinks most especially beers and spirits.

Purines are normally dissolved in the blood and are filtered out by the nephrons of the kidney and then are passed out in the urine in a normal human but sometimes there can be a malfunction such that your body might start producing too much uric acid or the problems may be from your kidney such that they are filtering too little uric from the blood.

Gout

When this happens, gout will occur. There are several risk factors that might cause an increase in the levels of uric acid in a person’s body and they include

Diet

If you constantly take in a diet that is usually very high in sea foods or in meat and always consuming flavoured drinks and alcohol, it will cause a definite increase of uric acid levels in your bloodstream and this will in turn put you at a higher risk of developing gout

Obesity

Being excessively overweight has always been a source of so many problems and gout is not left out in the trend. Once you are overweight, your body will always produce excessive uric acid and your kidneys will have a very difficult time filtering and eliminating them from the body

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Genetics

If any family member has had gout, then there is a higher tendency for you to develop gout

Age

People of ages 30-50 years are likely to develop gout. Men between these ages are even more likely to develop it if precautions are not taken.

Sex

Men are at a higher risk of developing gout than women. This is because normally before menopause the uric levels in men is higher than in women.

But once the woman has reached the level of menopause, the uric level in that woman rises and equates the level that is found in a man and then they start developing symptoms of an increased level of uric acid. However, a man starts developing signs and symptoms from the age of 30 years.

Medications

Drugs such as diuretics that is used in managing high blood pressure can cause severe gout, this is because diuretics asides treating HBP, will cause an elevation in the level of uric acid in the body.

Some other drugs such as allopurinol whose primary purpose is to reduce the level of uric acid in the body can also cause a gout flare. This is because whatever will cause a rise or fall in the levels of uric acid in the body will cause an initial outflow of uric acid called a gout flare.

Other drugs like aspirin and drugs that are used for treating cancers can also cause gout. An underlying disease condition can also cause gout. A person who is suffering from degenerative arthritis can make the joints very sore and tender such that it can become a place of attack for gout.

There are signs and symptoms associated with gout and these include:

Severe pains in the affected joint

Usually, gout affects the joint found in your big toe especially the large joint, but this doesn’t mean that it can’t affect any other joint in the body as well. When the pain begins, it is always very severe within the first 4hrs to 12hrs after its initial onset.

Persistent discomfort

After the pain subsides eventually, the person might still be experiencing a persistent feeling of discomfort in that joint which will likely last for a few weeks or a few days. If it’s not treated, another wave of attack might hit that joint and/or other joints and this time it will be more severe.

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Redness and swelling

The joints which have been affected will appear very tender, red, inflamed, and warm or hot (depends on how severe it is).

Limitation of movements in that joint

Once gout is not properly treated and it progresses, it will cause the person to be unable to carry out certain movements which were usually very normal to the person. Gout can cause several complications in the body if not controlled and treated. They include:

Reoccurrence

If it is not properly treated, the person may experience a reoccurrence of symptoms. Medications can help reduce or prevent the reoccurrence of gout but if it is not properly taken care of, it can eventually cause destruction of the joint.

Advanced gout

If the gout isn’t properly treated, it can cause a deposition of large uric crystals under the skin and this condition is called TOPHI. Tophi can be developed in almost all areas of the body and it is Usually not painful at all but when there is an attack of gout, the site of tophi can become quite inflamed and red.

Formation of kidney stones

Uric crystals that are formed and not properly treated by dissolving them will gather together and deposit themselves in the kidney or in the urinary tract and this will eventually cause kidney stones. Medications taken for the treatment of gout can help limit the formation of kidney stones.

You can prevent the development of gout if you adhere strictly to the following;

  • Always stay hydrated by taking in plenty of fluids (water). Try to limit your intake of sweetened drinks especially those which have a very high fructose content.
  • Reduce your intake of alcohol. If possible, avoid alcohol. If you feel you can’t stop taking alcohol, then discuss with your doctor or dietician about what type of alcohol will be suitable for you and the quantity that is safe for you to take in.
  • Instead of always getting your protein from seafood or meat, try taking your protein from low diary fat products. This because the protein gotten from them can actually protect you from developing gout and they are body friendly.
  • Try to maintain a good and desirable body weight. Losing weight will help decrease the levels of uric acid in the body. But be careful, don’t overdo it. If you lose weight rapidly, you just might be increasing the levels of uric acid in your body. If you must fast, then don’t overdo it as well.

If you are currently experiencing severe pains in your joints (especially the large joint on your big toe), immediately visit your doctor. Waiting it out or leaving it untreated can lead to more severe problems.

If you are also experiencing severe swelling and intense heat from the joint, visit your doctor as well as this could be an indication that it is infected.

Deborah Akinola
Wirter, poet and public speaker