Taking care of your feet is important if you have gout disease, but if you’ve never experienced gout before, and are suffering from it for the first time, you may have many questions regarding what gout is, and how to prevent it.
The following provides an overview of gout to help you better understand the disease and how you can stop it from recurring.
What is gout?
Gout is considered a form of arthritis or an acquired disease. Gout is characterized by a build up of uric acid levels in the blood, which eventually turn into uric acid crystals that are typically deposited into joints (I.E. big toe, ankles, knees, writs, fingers, elbows, etc.), causing the affected joints to become inflamed.
Gout, especially the first occurrence, almost always attacks the big toe and causes the following symptoms:
- Sudden acute pain and throbbing in the joint
- Redness and swelling in the joint
- Difficulty moving the joint within its normal capacity
- Skin over the joint may feel tight as if it is being stretched
The attack usually happens in the middle of the night, and can last for many days (usually 3 -5 days) or weeks.
Who is at risk of developing gout disease?
Approximately 1 million Americans suffer from gout. Though it occurs rarely in children and young adults, anyone can have a gout attack. However, men aged 40 and older primarily sufferer from gout because they have higher levels of uric acid in their blood.
Uric acid is formed when purines are broken down in the body. Purines exist in every cell of the body, and also exist in food we consume. Too many purines increase the level of uric acid in the blood, which often makes it difficult for the body to eliminate all excess uric acid through urine.
Too much uric acid that triggers gout can be the result of:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Eating foods high in purines (I.E. seafood, organ meats, yeast, etc.)
- Crash diets
- Joint injury
- Hereditary factors (there is a 20% greater risk for those whose parents had gout)
- Menopause (women’s uric acid levels increase when their bodies change)
- Certain medications (I.E. aspirin, cyclosporin A, nicotinic acid, etc.)
Can gout be treated?
Yes it can and should be treated. Gout disease that is left untreated can lead to continuous flare-ups within an affected joint which can eventually cause the joint to be permanently damaged and deformed. If you experience a gout flare-up see your doctor so he/she can monitor your progress and provide you with beneficial treatment options.
How can I prevent gout?
Once an attack of gout has cleared up, it can reoccur, and the risk of recurring gout attacks increase with each case. The best way to prevent gout disease flare ups is through the following methods:
Modify your diet – You need to find out what foods and beverages are rich in purines and limit or avoid them altogether. If you are having difficulty creating a diet plan that works for you, it’s a good idea to visit a dietitian.
Lose weight – If you are overweight (above your healthy target weight for your age and height), you need to adopt a lifestyle change (diet and exercise program) so you can lose the excess weight in a healthy manner. Speak to your doctor about your plans about losing weight before taking on any diet or exercise program as crash dieting can make gout worse.
Take care of your joints – Stretching exercises for your joints is extremely important because this helps to strengthen and improve circulation, which, in turn, helps to protect the joints from injury. Taking care of joints in regards to your feet also means wearing proper supportive and comfortable shoes.
Medication – There are certain medications that your doctor may prescribe to help prevent recurrent gout attacks.
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