Gout: Everything You Need to Know
If you or someone you love has recently been diagnosed with gout, you might have a few questions. While the acute pain associated with gout can be frustrating to say the least, it’s important to know what the condition actually is and what to expect.
What is Gout – Really?
Gout, also known as gouty arthritis, is marked by sharp pain and stiffness in a specific joint. Gout is commonly found in the big toe, but may affect other areas such as:
- and more
Gout is considered a type of arthritis, but is a direct result of too much uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is a normal byproduct of food processing, but if the kidneys don’t process it out properly, it can lead to crystals developing in the joints.
A body may be more susceptible to higher levels of uric acid if a person:
- Has a poor diet
- Is overweight
- Is a male between the ages of 30 to 50
- Has a family history of gout
Uric acid crystals are what cause the severe gout pain that you may be experiencing. However, joint pain and stiffness can have many other causes, so it’s important to visit a doctor if you’re experiencing:
- Severe pain in your toe, knees, heels, wrists, etc.
- Redness and swelling around the painful joint
- Limited range of motion, difficult walking, etc.
- Continuing discomfort in the joint, even after acute pain has passed
If you have any of these symptoms, a doctor could better evaluate your condition and give you answers.
How is Gout Diagnosed?
To see if your joint pain, swelling or stiffness is a result of gout, you need to visit a doctor. A doctor can perform a few tests to see if you have gout, including:
- A blood test. This will provide information on the creatinine and uric acid levels in your blood.
- A joint fluid test. Like drawing blood, a doctor will draw fluid from your affected joint to then test. If uric acid crystals are present, that’s a clear sign of gout.
- Imaging. Depending on your specific problem area and your doctor’s access to equipment, you may need:
- An X-ray
- A CT scan
- An ultrasound
Each of these options provide different views of the joint to see if other problems could be resulting in your pain or inflammation.
Without proper testing by a doctor or medical team, a gout diagnosis cannot be provided. If you’ve been diagnosed with gout, there are a few treatment options you can consider.
Treatment for Gout
The best way to decrease gout flare-ups is to address what is causing high levels of uric acid in the first place. For most people, this means:
- Reducing the consumption of red meat and seafood
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Working out and losing weight
However, there are also medical treatments that can help alleviate the pain associated with gout, as well as potentially prevent it from coming back.
A doctor may prescribe a gout patient:
- Prednisone or other corticosteroids. This reduces the pain and inflammation associated with gout flare ups and comes in tablet or injection form.
- Colchicine. This also helps with gout pain, but has some side effects. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are not uncommon, so a doctor will only prescribe it in severe cases.
- NSAIDs. Ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve), and prescription drugs like Celebrex help with the pain and can also help prevent a future flare-up.
- Xanthine oxidase inhibitors. These medications limit the body’s uric acid production, hopefully cutting down on the crystallization that causes gout.
- Probenecid. This helps your kidneys remove more uric acid from the body, thereby decreasing the amount in your blood stream.
Even if you’ve been diagnosed with gout, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of another flareup. Eating right, exercising, and monitoring your uric acid levels can all go a long way. Make sure that you talk to your doctor about medications that are right for you and address any pain in your joints when it arises.
Don’t wait to seek help for your gout; you don’t have to suffer with severe joint pain forever.
Orthopedic Corner | Leon Mead MD Orthopedic Doctor | 730 Goodlette Road North, Suite 201 Naples Florida 34102 | Phone: (239) 262-1119