Understanding the Symptoms of Gout

Gout is a form of arthritis that results in painful flare-ups. This complex form of arthritis can occur in anyone but is more common in men. Your risk for gout goes up as you age, peaking at the age of 75. When gout occurs in women, it is typically after menopause. {{1}}

Gout Uric AcidGout occurs due to a build-up of uric acid crystals in the joint. Uric acid is produced through the breakdown of purines, which are natural substances that occur when the body metabolizes certain foods in the stomach. When too much uric acid is produced, painful, needle-like crystals accumulate in the joint or surrounding tissue. This leads to several symptoms that can include:

  • Joint Pain: This is the most common symptom of gout. It typically affects the joint of the big toe but can occur anywhere. The ankles, elbows, wrists, fingers, and knees can also be affected. When a gout flare-up occurs, the first four to 12 hours are the most painful.
  • Limited Range of Motion: When the joint is affected for long periods, you may not be able to move that joint normally. Limited range of motion may be permanent, depending on the severity of your gout.
  • Lingering Discomfort: After a gout flare-up occurs, pain may continue for several days and sometimes weeks. The more attacks you have, the longer this discomfort may last.
  • Inflammation and Redness: When a joint is affected by gout, it will become tender, warm, red, and swollen. {{2}}

Gout Triggers

Gout Diet

As mentioned above, gout develops due to the breakdown of purines. These purines lead to uric acid build-up in the blood and, eventually, painful joints. Purines are present in many foods, but some foods increase your risk of gout more than others. Foods that are high in purines include:

  • Sardines
  • Anchovies
  • Mussels
  • Organ meats (like liver)
  • Salmon
  • Spinach

These foods can cause a gout flare-up, but certain medications and beverages (like beer and liquor) can trigger gout as well. These beverages also make you dehydrated, which can also spur on a gout attack. When the body is dehydrated, the kidneys cannot get rid of excess uric acid.

Gout Treatments

If you need to go to the hospital for another medical condition, it is important to tell your healthcare providers that you suffer from gout. If you require surgery or have pneumonia, certain procedures can cause uric acid levels to rise in the bloodstream. Experiencing a gout attack in the hospital can worsen your condition. {{3}}

Read on to learn more about ways to manage your pain while living with gout.

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Apply Ice

Gout is an inflammatory condition, so ice can help reduce swelling and redness to any affected joint. Ice can be used alongside other pain management techniques to treat mild symptoms of gout. If your gout pain isn’t too severe, you can try cold packs or compresses to help with aches and pains. You can wrap ice cubes in a thin towel and apply it to the affected joint. A bag of frozen peas or vegetables can work as well. Apply the ice for up to 20 minutes. You can do this several times a day to help relieve pain. Do not use this method if you have diabetes-related nerve problems. {{4}}

Elevation

Elevating your foot can also help reduce inflammation and swelling caused by gout. If you are experiencing a flare-up, doctors recommend raising the affected joint (most likely the foot) higher than your chest. Leg elevation helps swelling due to the force of gravity moving fluid towards your heart. You may need to elevate the joint a few times a day for 20 minutes at a time. Gout attacks often occur at night, so it can be helpful to prop your foot on a few pillows while you sleep. {{5}}

Get Some Rest

It is important to remain rested and relaxed when experiencing a gout attack. You want to keep the joint as immobile as possible to prevent further painful symptoms. Stress can aggravate gout, so you may want to participate in activities that calm you to help lessen the effects of a flare-up. {{4}}

Gout TriggersTweak Your Diet

Certain foods and beverages can trigger gout, so tailoring your diet is a big step in improving your condition. Consuming coffee (both caffeinated and decaffeinated) can help to lower uric acid levels. Scientists are unsure why coffee has this effect, so feel free to have a cup of joe if you are trying to implement a gout-friendly diet. Consuming a healthy daily intake of vitamin C can also help lower uric acid in the bloodstream. {{2}}

Cherries have also shown potential in lowering uric acid. Some studies show that eating cherries or consuming cherry extract can improve gout symptoms. One 2012 study looked at 633 participants with gout. The study found that those who consumed ten cherries a day reduced their risk for flare-ups by 35 percent. Scientists think cherries have this effect because they contain anthocyanins. Anthocyanins have natural anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial to joint pain. {{6}}

Medications

The goal of gout treatment is to reduce pain and inflammation. NSAIDs, colchicine, and corticosteroids are the most commonly prescribed medications. Gout-sufferers can buy discounted medications from Canadian Pharmacies to treat their symptoms. Gout cannot be cured, but it can be controlled over time if the uric acid level is properly reduced. If a person continues to consume high-purine foods, then gout can continue to pose challenging symptoms. Learn more about medications to treat gout below.

NSAIDs: NSAIDs stand for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. NSAIDs are beneficial for those with gout because they can reduce both pain and inflammation. NSAIDs are typically the first line of defense against gout pain. Many people have some over-the-counter NSAIDs in their medicine cabinet, like aspirin or ibuprofen. NSAIDs can be bought at your local drug store but are also available at higher prescription doses. It is important to take NSAIDs responsibly because they can cause adverse side effects, including nausea, diarrhea, gastrointestinal side effects, and stomach ulcers. {{7}}

Corticosteroids: New research shows that corticosteroids can help reduce pain and inflammation as well as NSAIDs. Corticosteroids like prednisone provide relief for inflamed areas of the body. They also lessen swelling, redness, itching, and allergic reasons. Corticosteroids are commonly used in the treatment of arthritis, including gout. Corticosteroids can come in pill form or injections. {{8}}

Colchicine: Colchicine is one of the few medications that can prevent gout attacks. Colchicine targets uric acid crystals in the joints to lessen build-up and decrease swelling. This medication is also used to treat a hereditary disease called familial Mediterranean fever. {{9}}

Xanthine Oxidase Inhibitors: Xanthine oxidase inhibitors may be used if your gout condition does not improve with the above medications. Xanthine oxidase inhibitors and uricosurics are used when gout complications begin to appear. These complications can include kidney disease, kidney stones, damaged joints, and tophi (growths on joints under the skin). This drug inhibits the activity of xanthine oxidase, which is an enzyme involved in purine metabolism. When this drug is taken, uric acid production can be reduced and lessens the severity of symptoms. {{2}}

Uricosurics: Uricosurics aid the kidneys’ in removing uric acid from the body. These drugs are also used when uric acid levels need to be reduced quickly. Uricosurics will lower uric acids but will increase uric acid in the urine. In some cases, they may cause side effects, including rash, stomach pain, and kidney stones. Talk to your doctor to learn more about which medication is right for your gout condition. {{2}}

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Pain Resource uses a team of writers, including current and past employees and guest bloggers. We regularly feature physicians, medical experts, healthcare bloggers and people who live with persistent pain and want to share their story. If you’re interested in writing for Pain Resource, please send your blog article or idea to info@painresource.com.

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