What is Gout?

Gout is a prevalent form of inflammatory arthritis. It arises from the buildup of uric acid crystals within the joint, leading to intermittent bouts of joint swelling, redness, and discomfort. Although more prevalent among males, gout seldom appears in women before menopause. Effective treatment and management are possible to avert complications and recurrent episodes of gout.

What Is the Main Cause of Gout?

Gout results from persistently elevated levels of uric acid in the body, which accumulate as uric acid crystals within and around the joints. This crystallisation triggers acute pain, swelling, and inflammation.

The body generates approximately 70% of its uric acid, while the remaining 30% originates from dietary sources.

Factors That Elevate Uric Acid Levels:

  • Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup and honey
  • Foods rich in uric acid, such as meat, innards, and seafood
  • Conditions resulting in cell overproduction like cancer, leukaemia, and psoriasis
  • Disorders that either elevate uric acid production or hinder its elimination, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and kidney issues
  • Certain medications that interfere with uric acid elimination

Symptoms of Gout

Symptoms of gout typically involve acute, sudden inflammation, characterised by pain, redness, heat, and swelling around the affected joint. Initially manifesting in the joint at the big toe's base, gout can also target other foot, knee, and hand joints.

Without adequate treatment, the inflammation worsens, leading to more frequent and prolonged pain episodes, chronic arthritis, or even irreversible joint damage.

Diagnosing Gout

The diagnosis of gout involves several methods, including:

  1. Analysis of fluid extracted from a swollen joint to confirm the presence of uric acid crystals, the primary diagnostic criterion.
  2. Blood tests to measure uric acid levels, although high levels do not necessarily confirm crystallisation.
  3. Dual energy CT scans, a specialised X-ray technology, visualise uric acid crystal accumulation within the joint, particularly suitable for detecting large crystal deposits.

Treatment Options for Gout

The long-term management strategy aims to lower uric acid levels in the body. Patients also receive medications to curb inflammation during acute gout attacks. Sustained medication is vital to prevent future episodes and complications like kidney issues and soft tissue crystal deposits (tophi).

Prevention and Self-Management Tips

To prevent gout, lifestyle changes are essential. These include:

  • Keeping all doctor appointments and adhering to prescribed medications.
  • Avoid foods that are high in uric acid like meat, innards, seafood, and alcoholic beverages.
  • Controlling weight within healthy ranges but avoiding abrupt or rapid weight loss.
  • Staying adequately hydrated.

Should an acute gout flare-up occur, abstain from using the inflamed joint until the symptoms subside.