What is it?
Gout is an acute form of arthritis and is caused by the accumulation of uric acid in the body. Uric acid crystals are deposited in the joints causing intense pain and swelling.
Symptoms: The joint most commonly affected is the base of the big toe. It can also occur in the knees, elbows, ankles and wrists. The acute attack of gout most often starts at night. The affected joint is red, swollen and extremely painful, mild fever; the first attack usually involves only one joint. A second attack may occur between six months and two years after the first. Subsequent attacks occur at shorter intervals, last longer and involve more joints. Lumps, known as tophi, may appear under the skin of the elbows, feet and ears.
Causes: Overproduction of uric acid on the body and/or underexcretion of uric acid by the kidneys. Use of diuretics. An overindulgence in rich food and/or alcohol may trigger an attack.
Treatment in the home: To ease the pain apply ice or a hot compress to the affected joint. Do not take aspirin to relieve the pain, as it can aggravate the symptoms. Drink plenty of water to help flush uric acid out via the kidneys. Sufficient water intake also helps prevent the formation of kidney stones. Avoid food high in purine such as red meat, liver, kidney, shellfish, sardines and anchovies. Use alcohol in moderation. Keep your weight down. To prevent further attacks, take preventative treatment regularly as prescribed by your doctor. Never start taking preventative medication during an attack.
Possible complications: If gout is not treated, it may lead to joint deformity, kidney disease or both.
When to consult a doctor: As soon as symptoms appear
What the doctor may do: Take a blood test to determine the level of uric acid in the blood. Prescribe a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug to be taken with or after food to relieve the symptoms. If you suffer from regular attacks, he may prescribe preventative medication to be taken daily.