What is gout?
Gout is a type of arthritis. It is characterised by the sudden onset of severe pain and swelling in a joint. Often the pain starts during the night. The joint becomes red shiny and very tender. Usually one joint only is affected, although a different joint may be affected on each attack of gout. The commonest joints to be affected are the big toe joint, ankle and the knee. The pain redness and swelling will subside over a period of days or weeks and the joint will feel normal in between attacks.
Gout is an inflammatory reaction caused when uric acid crystals are laid down in the joint. Uric acid is a waste product that is normally dissolved in the blood, filtered out by the kidneys and passed out of the body in the urine. If too much uric acid is produced by the body, or not enough is passed out an excess builds up and can form crystals in and around the joints.
Who gets gout?
The predisposing factors for gout include:
- Male far more predominately than females (in whom it occurs only after menopause except in very rare cases)
- Age 40 plus
- Regular alcohol consumption
- A family history of gout
- Taking diuretics (water tablets)
- Kidney disease
What's the treatment for gout?
In the acute phase:
- ice will reduce swelling and pain. Reusable ice packs are available from companies such as Physioroom
- Medication to decrease the swelling and pain
After the acute phase
- Increase exercise levels. This should be done steadily have a look at I'd like to exercise but I'm far too busy for some ideas
- Decrease weight by sensible exercise and diet
- Dietary changes - decrease intake of food stuffs that are high in purines as this is the substance that breaks down in the body to form uric acid. This includes alcohol, anchovies, herring, mackerel, and organ meats (liver, kidney brain)
- Keep hydrated. Drink plenty of water to dilute uric acid levels
- Cherries, blueberries, strawberries have a high level of flavanoids, they have been shown to decrease uric acid levels
- For people who have recurrent attacks of gout medication to decrease the production of uric acid, or to increase the amount of uric acid excreted from the body can be useful
Disclaimer: The information on this page is written to help you understand your pain. There are many possible causes for joint pain and should you have any concerns you should always seek advice from a qualified health professional such as a Chartered Physiotherapist or your GP.