Gout is a kind of arthritis mostly affecting men. This illness is caused by having too much uric acid in the blood, which causes the formation of hard crystals in the joints. Gout attacks are characterized by having sudden burning pain, stiffness, and swelling in a joint, usually a big toe. These attacks will come and go continuously until gout is treated. If not treated, gout can harm joints, tendons, and other tissues over time.
Conditions such as having overweight, drinking too much alcohol, eating too much meat and fish with high levels of purine or the regular intake of diuretics (water pills) can also cause gout.
Most commonly gout appears during the night. A gout attack starts with swelling, tenderness, redness and sharp pain in the big toe, foot, ankle, knee or other joints. The pain attacks can last a few days or many weeks and they can turn back after months or years. Even if the pain has gone away it is important to consult the doctor after a gout attack because the uric acid can still be present in the joints and this can cause damage in the joints. The doctor will then do a physical exam in the damaged joint, take a sample of fluid from the joint and look for uric acid crystals. A blood test may also be done in order to measure the amount of uric acid in the blood.
If the blood uric acid is high but the person has never had an attack of gout, the person will rarely need treatment but if the uric acid level in blood is very high, the person may need regular testings to look for a possible kidney damage. In this case a long-term treatment may be needed to lower the uric acid level. This level will be watched by the doctor until it is lowered to normal levels. Besides, the doctor will advise you if the use of long-term medicine will be needed. This will depend on the uric acid levels and how likely it is that another gout attack will be present in the future. Since gout usually develops after several years of building up uric acid crystals in the joints and surrounding tissues, it results very difficult for the person to realize the presence of elevated uric acid levels in blood. Therefore, people most commonly experience the first gout attack by surprise.
Further, if gout symptoms have occurred sometimes without treatment for several years, the risk of getting chronic gout increases considerably causing that more than one joint gets affected. In case chronic gout has been diagnosed the doctor will advise you which medicines must be taken against pain. Besides, in order to reduce future weight attacks it is very important to do exercise in case of having overweight, limit alcohol consumption and reduce the amount of meat and seafood every week. It is important to mention that every patient must inform the doctor about which medicines are being taken because some of them may increase uric acid level in the body. Last, in case of havin tophi it is very important to treat this condition immediately. Tophi are chalky nodules that form from uric acid crystals and if not treated on time they may build deformities in a given body part. In this case surgery is needed to remove large tophi.