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A Closer Look at Gout

A Closer Look at Gout

History buffs might recall Henry VIII’s struggle with gout 一 a type of arthritis that is famously known as the “disease of kings.” For centuries, it was thought that the rich, indulgent diet of the royalty caused gout (hence the name). However, gout doesn’t just affect royalty. Rich, indulgent foods may exacerbate gout symptoms, but they aren’t the only cause.

Instead, gout occurs when uric acid accumulates in your blood, which leads to the formation of uric acid crystals, which then accumulate in your joints. 

Just like all other types of arthritis, gout causes joint inflammation and pain, but thankfully it’s one of the many types of arthritis that our specialists treat from our Manhattan Podiatry Associates, PC, offices in Midtown and Downtown Manhattan.

In this article, we take a closer look at gout, including what causes it and how it’s treated.

What is gout?

Gout is a complex type of arthritis that most often affects your big toe. Gout is notorious for causing painful and sudden “gout attacks.” A gout attack is characterized by intense pain, swelling, redness, and heat. Some people describe a gout attack as if their toe is on fire. 

Although the attacks come and go, you may experience lingering discomfort and a reduced range of motion for days or weeks after an attack.

What causes gout?

When uric acid (also known as urate) crystals form in your blood, the crystals can accumulate in your joints. But what causes those crystals to form? Your body naturally makes uric acid when it breaks down purines. Under normal circumstances, uric acid passes through your kidneys and is excreted through urine. 

However, if your body makes too much uric acid or your kidneys aren’t getting rid of enough, then you end up with too much uric acid in your blood. When this happens, the crystals (which are sharp crystal formations) get lodged in your joint, causing pain, swelling, and inflammation. 

Because your body makes uric acid when breaking down purines, scaling back on purine-rich food can help you avoid gout attacks. Purine-rich foods include:

Back to King Henry VIII: Because kings were more likely to have access to these foods, kings were more likely to suffer from gout than individuals who didn’t eat these items. In other words, rich foods don’t cause gout, but eating a lot of purine-rich food can make gout worse.

Exploring the risk factors of gout

Now that we’ve covered what gout is and what causes it, let’s look at the risk factors of gout. Risk factors include:

Risk factors don’t necessarily mean you’ll develop gout, but if you notice that you have several risk factors, focus on the ones you can control, such as maintaining a healthy weight or eating a well-balanced diet.

How is gout treated?

During a gout attack, your primary goal is to find relief from the heat, pain, and swelling. Elevate your toe (above heart level) and apply a cold compress. The elevation and ice should help reduce both pain and swelling. 

Anti-inflammation pain relief medication can also help with pain and swelling. During a gout attack, don’t hesitate to ask for help around the house if necessary. Go easy on yourself and rest if you need to.

Other gout treatments include:

If you’re concerned about gout, remember that you don’t have to deal with it on your own. We’re just a call or click away. Schedule your appointment today and find the gout treatment that’s right for you.

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