What Causes Gout?

What Causes Gout?

by Alex Hirsch (SU)

Being born of royal blood sounds like a dream come true. Unless of course if you suffer from gout. Known throughout history as “the disease of kings,” gout often is associated with indulgent cuisine and a privileged lifestyle. But as is the case with much ancient lore, facts and science have proven that is false, kind of. So what exactly is gout and what causes it? You may be surprised to learn that you don’t have to be of the manor born to suffer from this painful condition but there are ways to reduce your risk of getting gout.

What is gout?

Gout occurs when uric acid, which is a waste product made by our bodies naturally, builds up in the blood, causing urate crystals to form into sharp, needlelike shapes that can get lodged in a joint. While gout is a form of arthritis, it is a bit different. Gout can occur in any joint but most commonly presents at the base of the big toe. When this happens, you may experience any one or more of the following symptoms.

Sudden and Severe Pain – Debilitating and severe, gout pain most often occurs without warning, especially when one is sleeping or in the middle of exercising or walking.

Swelling – Gout flare-ups are most common in the joint of the base of the big toe.  As such, patients often describe the swelling as a protruded bump similar to a bunion. After several hours, the swelling does go down but pain may last for hours or days.

Redness and Heat – Gout is also characterized with redness and heat at the affected joint. The swollen joint can become red in color and feel hot to the touch for several hours during a gout flare up.

Discomfort – Gout pain can last from a few hours to a few days, and then, once it’s gone, discomfort generally lingers for a few weeks, usually in the form of pain and swelling.

Limited Range of Motion – Gout causes range of motion to decrease in the joint. As the gout flare-up subsides, patients often see their range of motion return to normal.

What Causes Flare-Ups?

Gout flare-ups may come on suddenly, but they are usually not the cause of random bad luck. Very often, the attack is triggered by the following causes that can result in the build-up of uric acid.

Diet – As a rule, certain foods do affect gout. Some are considered delicacies, to include shellfish and red meat; however, other foods are part of an average diet and include sugar and high-fructose syrup, processed foods, and smoked meats. Alcohol consumption also has been known to contribute to gout attacks.

Weight – Being overweight or obese makes it more difficult for the body to process and excrete uric acid, causing a higher risk of uric acid buildup. Losing weight will decrease your risk of flare-ups, and may also encourage you to pursue a healthy, wholesome diet.

Medical Conditions – Some medical conditions – diabetes, kidney disease, and some metabolic issues, for example – do increase the risk of higher uric acid levels in the body.

Hereditary – If you have family members with a history of gout, you run a higher risk of developing it, too. 

Treatment

If you have been diagnosed with gout, there are some simple things you can do at home to relieve the pain. At first sign of a flare-up, take some over-the-counter anti-inflammatories; then ice and elevate the affected joint. Continue to hydrate (water is best; avoid caffeinated, sugary or alcoholic drinks). Relaxation is important to avoid stress. Finally, reach out to your doctor as soon as possible for a referral options.

If you suspect you may have gout or any other concern that’s affecting the functionality of your joints, consider seeing the professionals at the Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence. Our board-certified physicians have a wealth of experience treating a variety of conditions, including joint pain and gout. If you do have gout – or any other condition – you can expect the royal treatment. Call 719-623-1050 to make an appointment today. You can also request an appointment online.