The symptoms of gout tend to come on hard and fast and are more likely to happen at night. Because the onset is so sudden, gout can completely stop you in your tracks and severely impact your plans, not to mention your quality of life. 

The most common symptom associated with gout is intense pain in your joints, especially the big toe. You can also experience pain in other joints, like the ankles, elbows, fingers, wrists, and knees.

Other gout symptoms include: 

  • Inflammation and swelling
  • Joint stiffness
  • Limited range of motion
  • Tenderness
  • Redness
  • Joints that are warm to the touch

The pain can often become so severe that even the lightest touch on the joint can cause extreme discomfort. The first 4-12 hours are usually the worst, but even after the pain subsides you may have lingering discomfort for days or even weeks.

Gout Risks and Causes

Gout is a complex form of arthritis that develops when you have too much uric acid in your body. Uric acid is formed naturally in your body when it breaks down a chemical compound in food and drinks called purines. Usually, your body breaks down purines and passes them through your kidneys and urinary system without any issues. Uric acid only becomes a problem when an excessive amount builds up, a condition called hyperuricemia.

This build up can turn the uric acid into sharp, painful crystals. The pain and symptoms associated with gout are a result of a build up of these crystals forming in your joints, fluids, and tissues.

Gout can happen to anyone, but men and people who are obese are more likely to get develop it.

Other risk factors are: 

  • Drinking alcohol, especially in excessive amounts
  • Eating a diet high in fructose
  • Suffering from kidney issues
  • Taking water pills (diuretics) 

Some medical conditions can contribute to you being more likely to get gout. This includes high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. 

Is it Gout or Another Type of Arthritis? 

Arthritis is a type of swelling and tenderness that occurs in the joints. It causes pain and stiffness that will progressively become worse over time. There are over 100 types of arthritis, but three of the most common types are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. 

Even though gout and other forms of arthritis cause joint pain and stiffness, it’s usually fairly straightforward to tell whether it’s gout or another type of arthritis. Gout attacks are usually sudden and intense, often causing a hot, searing pain. Other forms of arthritis tend to be less acute and come on more slowly and less intensely.

Also, gout almost always develops either between someone’s late 20’s/early 30’s or in their 70’s/80’s. Other forms of arthritis like rheumatoid and osteoarthritis tend to start in a person’s 50’s/60’s. 

Gout Prevention 

If you suffer with gout, you’ll want to do everything you can to prevent a painful attack. Luckily there are several things you can do to make an attack less likely. 

The biggest step you can take to prevent a gout attack is to change your diet. You should make sure that your diet isn’t high in purines since excessive purines can cause uric acid build ups. Foods to avoid include red meat, bacon, organ meat, and seafood like mussels, scallops, tuna, trout, and sardines.

Alcohol can also increase your purine levels so cutting back or avoiding alcohol altogether can make a big difference. Instead of alcohol, opt for a big glass of water. Drinking enough water each day will help your kidneys flush out uric acid from the system.

People who are overweight are more likely to develop gout and to have more frequent attacks. On the flip side, dramatic weight loss (like after an illness or weight loss surgery) can also contribute to gout. Try to lose weight and keep it off in safe, achievable amounts through diet and exercise.

Plus, exercising will improve your mobility, circulation, and overall fitness

Gout Treatment

When the painful symptoms of gout flare up, you want relief as soon as possible. First thing’s first, don’t use the joint unless you have to. Try to elevate it if possible and use ice to reduce swelling and inflammation.

Sometimes even something as light as a sheet can cause excruciating pain to the affected joint/s. If that’s the case, wear loose clothing and find other ways to stay warm if you start feeling cold. For painful, swollen toes, you might want to cut a hole in your sock to give it some relief.

You should also drink plenty of fluids and avoid any of your known triggers.

Gout Medication

In addition to taking steps like the ones mentioned above, there are several medication options for treating gout.

  • NSAIDs: NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) like Naproxen have anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce swelling and irritation.
  • Diclofenac Tablets: Anti-inflammatories that can treat mild to moderate arthritis and gout pain.
  • Allopurinol: This medication works by reducing the production of uric acid in your body.
  • Colchicine: An anti-gout medication that helps with the painful symptoms of both acute and chronic gout.

Gout Medication Side Effects

Whenever you take medication, there’s a chance you might experience side effects. Not everyone will experience them or experience the same ones. All medications come with a leaflet with instructions on how to take it as well as any possible side effects.

If you have been prescribed a medication, it’s because your GP or pharmacist feels the therapeutic benefits outweigh any potential side effects. However, Allopurinol is a gout medication that has been associated with liver damage so if this is a concern for you, speak to your healthcare provider.

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