Arthritis is a painful condition affecting the joints that can prevent an individual from performing daily tasks that once were easy. Often, arthritis develops slowly and becomes worse over a period of time. Certain types of arthritis, however, seem to appear more suddenly. One such condition is gout.
Gout is a condition caused by high levels of uric acid that accumulate in the blood. Over time, this accumulation of acid forms into sharp particles within a particular joint, leading to intense pain, swelling and redness.
“Before gout begins to cause pain, uric acid levels begin rising in the bloodstream. These increased levels eventually lead to an attack of joint pain that can occur suddenly and last for several hours or days,” said Bill Bailey, M.D., a specialist in rheumatology with Maury Regional Medical Group in Columbia.
Gout pain often occurs in the feet, especially in the big toe. Following a gout attack, pain usually subsides; however, gout can occur again and cause permanent damage to the joints when left untreated.
Factors that can contribute to an individual experiencing a gout attack include:
- Nutrition. A diet that is too heavy in red meat and shellfish and includes alcoholic beverages and/or a heavy intake of sugary beverages can lead to an increased risk for gout.
- Family History. An increased risk for gout is present for those whose family history includes this condition.
- Weight. Those who are overweight are more likely to experience gout pain than those who have a normal weight.
“Diagnosing gout can include a physical exam and review of your symptoms as well as a blood test to determine if uric acid levels may be elevated,” said Dr. Bailey.
Treatment for gout can include over-the-counter or prescription medications to reduce pain and inflammation as well as recommendations for changes in diet, alcohol consumption and weight.
Ask your physician how you can lower your risk for gout or visit a specialist in rheumatology if you experience symptoms that are consistent with a gout attack.