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Treatment and Prevention of Gout

Gout is a painful condition that arises due to an accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints. The following article discusses the treatment options and preventive measures for the same.
Gout is a condition characterized by inflammation of the joints, due to an excess of uric acid in the body. This is a metabolic disorder wherein uric acid crystals build up in the joints, causing extreme pain. The level of uric acid increases due to the inability of the body to process purine, or the inability to remove excess uric acid.

Causes and Symptoms
Gout is a condition wherein the body fails to remove the excess uric acid from the body. When an individual eats foods that are rich in purine, it leads to elevated levels of uric acid. After the level of uric acid reaches a certain threshold, it begins to precipitate as monosodium urate crystals. These crystals are then deposited in the connective tissue and spaces between the joints, which leads to inflammation and pain.

The precise cause for gout is not clearly known, however, it is known to be an inherited condition. Risk factors associated with this condition include dehydration, fever, excessive alcohol consumption, heavy meals or overeating, crash diets, recent surgery, and injury. Obese individuals, and those suffering from high blood pressure, abnormal kidney function, etc., may also suffer from gout. The condition may also be manifested as an adverse effect of certain drugs, especially diuretics.

A gout attack occurs in four stages; asymptomatic, acute, intercritical, and chronic. The symptoms differ according to the stages. Some of the symptoms include severe pain in the joint along with swelling and warmth around the joint, red and shiny skin on the joint, mild fever, and white, firm lumps under the skin. An acute gout attack can occur in the big toe, and this condition is called 'podagra'. Other areas where gout attack can occur include ankles, knees, wrists, fingers, and elbows.

Treatment
The treatment regime mainly aims to reduce the excruciating pain experienced by people suffering from this condition. Diagnosis of gout is confirmed through an examination of fluid aspirated from the affected joint, and the presence of uric acid crystals, detected using a polarizing light microscope.

Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are prescribed to reduce the pain and swelling due to a gout attack. If a patient cannot take NSAIDs, the doctor may prescribe colchicine that helps in reducing the pain, soon after the symptoms appear. However, the possible side effects include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Corticosteroids also help in controlling the inflammation, and may be used as a part of the treatment. Drugs to block the production of uric acid, and to help in the removal of uric acid from the body, may also be prescribed.

Preventive Measures
  • Increase the daily fluid intake, and consume a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat milk, etc.
  • Choose low-fat dairy products over the regular ones.
  • Reduce the amount of meat, fish, and poultry products in your diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight, as appropriate for your height and age.
  • Limit or completely avoid alcoholic beverages.
Lifestyle changes, healthy diet, and appropriate exercise are the key factors to prevent gout attacks, and manage the condition effectively. In case of any doubts or concerns it is advisable to seek appropriate professional consultation.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.
By Batul Nafisa Baxamusa
Last Updated: 10/5/2011
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