Differences Between Men And Women
Sex differences play a role in which joints are affected:
- In men, about 85% of gout flare-ups affect joints in the lower extremities. About 50% of first-time gout attacks involve a big toe joint.8
- In women, a gout attack is most likely to occur in a knee.10 In addition, women may be more likely to get gout in the upper extremities.9
While women are less likely to get gout, they are more likely to have multiple joints affected by gout.13
How Can I Manage My Gout And Improve My Quality Of Life
Gout affects many aspects of daily living, including work and leisure activities. Fortunately, there are many low-cost self-management strategies that are proven to improve the quality of life of people with gout.
For gout in particular:
- Eat a healthy diet. Avoid foods that may trigger a gout flare, including foods high in purines , and limit alcohol intake .
CDCs Arthritis Program recommends five self-management strategies for managing arthritis and its symptoms. These can help with gout as well.
What Happens At Your Appointment
The GP may ask about your diet and if you drink alcohol.
They may refer you to see a specialist and arrange a blood test and scan. Sometimes a thin needle is used to take a sample of fluid from inside the affected joint, to test it.
The blood test will find out how much of a chemical called uric acid there is in your blood.
Having too much uric acid in your blood can lead to crystals forming around your joints, which causes pain.
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Treating Gout With Medications
Certain medications reduce the pain and inflammation of gout attacks, such as anti-inflammatory drugs , colchicine, and corticosteroids. Other medications decrease the level of uric acid in the blood and prevent the deposit of uric acid in joints , the kidneys , and in tissue , helping to prevent further attacks and complications. These drugs include allopurinol, febuxostat, lesinurad, and probenicid.
Myth: Only Wealthy And Obese People Get Gout
Truth: People of all sizes get gout although extra pounds increase the risk, says John Reveille, M.D., director of rheumatology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. Gout is also more common in people who have other, often weight-related health problems, including diabetes and high blood pressure or cholesterol. And while income has nothing to do with the condition, genes do play a part: If your parents had gout, you’re more likely to have it as well.
Gout is not a gender-specific disease.
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Key Points About Gout
Gout causes inflamed, painful joints due to urate crystal deposits at the joints.
Gout can also cause urate crystal deposits that cause lumps under the skin.
Gout can be triggered by eating foods high in purines and drinking alcohol.
Treatment of gout is aimed at reducing pain and the risk of future flare-ups.
Gout can be managed with medicines and lifestyle changes.
What Increases Your Chances For Gout
The following make it more likely that you will develop hyperuricemia, which causes gout:
- Being male
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Can It Lead To Any Complications
If left unmanaged, gout-related inflammation can cause permanent damage to your ankle joint, especially if you have frequent flare-ups.
Over time, lumps of uric acid crystals, called tophi, can also form around your ankle. These lumps arent painful, but they can cause additional swelling and tenderness during a flare-up.
Myth: Women Aren’t Afflicted By Gout
Truth: Men and women alike can develop the disease, although men are more vulnerable earlier in life. “Gout is 10 times more common in men than in women, until women reach menopause. The incidence of new cases of gout in men and women tends to equal out after age 60 or so,” says Herbert Baraf, M.D., clinical professor of medicine at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Throbbing pain on the tip of your big toe? You might have gout.
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Practice Mindfulness And Meditation
The good news: A gout attack is self-limited and will clear in time. In the meantime, according to the Arthritis Foundation, meditation, yoga breathing, mindfulness, and guided imagery can help you deal with the pain.
Gout Symptoms And Complications
Gout is not gout until symptoms occur. When they do, they usually come on suddenly and, at least initially, affect a single joint. Within hours, that joint becomes red, swollen, hot, and painful they’re called gout attacks for a reason. It’s easy to mistake a gout attack for a localized infection of a joint. The metatarsophalangeal joint at the base of the big toe is often the site of the first attack, but the knees, ankles, and joints between the many small bones that form the foot are also common sites. People who already have osteoarthritis the most common form of arthritis often experience their gout attacks in the joints of the finger
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What Does A Gout Attack Look And Feel Like What Would A Foot Or Toe With Gout Look Like
When gout occurs, the joint tends to be extremely painful and is warm, red and swollen . The inflammation that is part of a gout attack is systemic, so that fever and chills, fatigue and malaise are not uncommonly part of the picture of a gout attack.
Figure 6: Toe with Acute Attack of Gout
Gout attacks can occur in joints that look normal, or in joints that have easily visible deposits of uric acid. These deposits are called tophi and can be in numerous locations, but especially on the feet and elbows. In Figure 9, the little finger of the right hand is bandaged since fluid was just removed from it, which demonstrated innumerable uric acid crystals.
Figure 7a: Tophi on Foot
Figure 7b: Tophus Over Achilles’ Tendon
Figure 8: Tophus on Elbow
Figure 9: Tophi on Hands
Figure 10: Large Tophus of Finger
While some gout attacks will solve quickly by themselves, the majority will go on for a week, several weeks, or even longer if not treated. Since gout attacks are usually quite painful and often make walking difficult, most gout sufferers will request specific treatment for their painful condition.
Myth: There Aren’t Effective Medicines For Gout
Truth: Many medications put the brakes on gout. Some control pain and inflammation immediately and others get at the root cause by eliminating the deposited uric acid crystals.
Colchicine is prescribed for acute gout flare-ups. A plant extract, it’s been used to treat gout for 2,000 years, says Reveille. Colchicine works within several minutes to several hours to block gout inflammation. The sooner you start it, the more likely the attack will resolve quickly. An injected steroid also tackles inflammation, usually controlling pain and swelling within 24 hours.
Prescription drugs such as allopurinol , febuxostat and probenecid all alleviate gout by controlling blood levels of uric acid. Also, two years ago the FDA approved an intravenous drug for people with advanced gout pegloticase that lowers uric acid levels and reduces deposits of uric acid crystals in the joints and soft tissue.
Most people who have gout will need to be on a uric-acid-lowering drug for life, usually just one or two pills a day, says George Washington University’s Baraf.
Changing your diet can help reduce the frequency of gout attacks.
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Is There A Test For Gout
There is no one test for gout, and its symptoms are similar to several different conditions. To see if you have gout, your health care provider may:
- Ask you to provide your medical history, including:
- Your symptoms.
- Any other medical problems you have.
- Any medications you are taking.
Treating The Pain At Home
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Why Do Gout Attacks Happen More At Night
Gout attacks happen more at night and in the early morning rather than during the day. You may have an attack start during your sleep. The reasons this happens are not entirely known, but some of the leading ideas are dehydration, lower body temperature, and changes in hormone levels during sleep. Talk to your doctor about ways to prevent gout attacks during your sleep.
How Does A Doctor Diagnose Gout
If you have sudden or severe pain in a joint, you should talk to your primary care provider . Your PCP may send you to a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in gout and other kinds of arthritis.
Healthcare providers consider several things when confirming gout:
- Symptoms: The provider will ask you to describe your symptoms, how often they happen and how long they last.
- Physical examination: Your provider will examine the affected joint to look for swelling, redness and warmth.
- Blood work: A test can measure the amount of uric acid in your blood.
- Imaging tests: You may have pictures taken of the affected joint with X-rays, an ultrasound or MRI.
- Aspiration: The provider may use a needle to pull fluid from the joint. Using a microscope, a team member can look for uric acid crystals or a different problem .
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What Can Increase Your Risk
A high level of uric acid in the blood is the main factor that increases your risk of developing gout. However, it’s still uncertain why some people with a high level of uric acid in the blood develop gout, while others with an equally high level don’t.
Other factors that may increase your risk of developing gout are outlined below.
The Role Of Medication In Prevention Of Gout
Table 3: Medications to pevent attacks of gout
Standard medications in preventing gout attacks
i. Colchicine : using the matches analogy discussed above1, using colchicine can be seen as dampening the uric acid matches. Colchicine does not lower the bodys store of uric acid, but it decreases the intensity of the bodys inflammatory reaction to these crystals. Recent studies have shown that at least one mechanism of colchicines action is by acting to prevent a cascade of reactions that lead to the production of interleukin 1-beta, which is an inflammatory protein , which is important in gouty inflammation.8
ii. Allopurinol: This agent is presently the most commonly used drug for the prevention of gout. Allopurinol blocks the enzyme xanthine oxidase, which blocks the breakdown of purines, thus decreasing the bodys total amount of uric acid. Allopurinol is effective in preventing gout no matter what the mechanism of the elevated uric acid was. Whether a person is making too much uric acid, or has difficulty excreting it via the kidney, allopurinols decrease in uric acid production leads to the same goal: a decreased total body uric acid.
Table 4: Reasons to use medication to lower uric acid
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How Uric Acid Crystals Form
The build-up of uric acid crystals begins with purines, a chemical compound found in many foods.
- When the body metabolizes purines, it produces a substance called uric acid.
- The uric acid enters the bloodstream.
- The kidneys filter the blood and normally filter out excess uric acid. This uric acid is then excreted via urine or stool .10
- If the kidneys cannot adequately filter out excess uric acid, or if the body produces too much uric acid, there will be too much uric acid in the bloodstream.
- Too much uric acid in the bloodstream is called hyperuricemia.
- In some people, hyperuricemia leads to the formation of uric acid crystals that collect in joint tissue, leading to painful symptoms.
An inability to adequately process and excrete uric acid accounts for an estimated 90% of gout cases.9 Other cases occur because a body produces too much uric acid.
Signs And Symptoms Of Gout
Any joint can be affected by gout, but it usually affects joints towards the ends of the limbs, such as the toes, ankles, knees and fingers.
Signs and symptoms of gout include:
- severe pain in one or more joints
- the joint feeling hot and very tender
- swelling in and around the affected joint
- red, shiny skin over the affected joint
Symptoms develop rapidly over a few hours and typically last three to 10 days. After this time the pain should pass and the joint should return to normal.
Almost everyone with gout will experience further attacks at some point, usually within a year.
Read more about the complications of gout.
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Joints Affected By Gout
Gout can affect any joint, but some joints are more likely to be affected than others. Joints commonly affected include the big toe, the foots instep, heel, ankle, and knee.2 Less often, gout affects the elbow, wrist, fingertips, or spine.2–7
Gout is acute, painful swelling in the joints from uric acid buildup. Common areas include the foot and big toe.
Arthritis / Acute Gout Attack
Gout is a form of arthritis, hence it causes pain and discomfort in the joints. A typical gout attack is characterized by the sudden onset of severe pain, swelling, warmth, and redness of a joint. The clinical presentation of acute gouty arthritis is not subtle with very few mimics other than a bacterial infection.
The joint most commonly involved in gout is the first metatarsophalangeal joint , and is called podagra. Any joint may be involved in a gout attack with the most frequent sites being in the feet, ankles, knees, and elbows.
An acute gout attack will generally reach its peak 12-24 hours after onset, and then will slowly begin to resolve even without treatment. Full recovery from a gout attack takes approximately 7-14 days.
An accurate and colorful discription of a gout attack was elegantly written in 1683 by Dr. Thomas Sydenham who was himself a sufferer of gout:
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How Long Does Gout In The Ankle Last
Gout flare-ups can last for several hours at a time, but you may feel pain in your ankle for days or weeks. Some people only have one flare-up in their life, while others have them several times a year.
Keep in mind that gout is a chronic condition, meaning it lasts for a long time and requires ongoing management. Dietary changes and medications can make a big difference, but youll also be at risk of having a flare-up.
Keep in mind that it can also take some time to find the right combination of diet changes and medication that works for you. Dont be discouraged if things dont seem to be improving right away.
Is Gout Hereditary
Gout is at least partly due to heredity. Researchers have found dozens of genes that increase peoples susceptibility to gout, including SLC2A9 and ABCG2. Genes associated with gout affect the amount of uric acid the body holds onto and releases.
Because of genetic factors, gout runs in families. People with a parent, sibling, or other close relative who has gout are more likely to get this condition themselves.
Its likely that genes only set the stage for gout. Environmental factors, such as diet, actually trigger the disease.
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