Gout is a common and very painful type of arthritis. While most other types of arthritis develop slowly, an attack of gout can happen suddenly and often overnight.
Gout is caused by a build up of one of our body’s waste products, uric acid. When uric acid accumulates in our bloodstream, it can settle in and around our joints and form tiny, jagged, needle-shaped crystals. As a result of these crystals, your joint can be left feeling hot, swollen, red, painful and often very sensitive. Often, the big toe joint is affected, however you may also experience gout in other joints such as your ankles and knees.
Gout more commonly affects men, over the age of 40. A number of factors may contribute to a person developing gout, such as: having a family history of gout, increased alcohol intake, being overweight, a past joint injury, certain medications or medical conditions, not drinking enough fluids or eating certain foods that increase uric acid levels in the blood. It is important to see your Doctor if you experience any joint inflammation, numbness or tingling, so you can receive the right diagnosis and the right treatment.
Without any treatment, a gout attack may last for about one to two weeks, however with medications, the attack can be resolved within several days. At the first sign of a gout attack, it is best to consult your Doctor and start medication promptly.
Acute Gout Attacks
Applying an ice pack or ice spray (e.g. Mentholatum® Ice Spray) to your affected joint may help to ease the pain. Try to protect, elevate and rest your inflamed joint as much as possible to reduce swelling. During the time of an acute gout attack try to limit your alcohol intake, drink a recommended amount of water and avoid foods that may trigger your gout such as organ meats and shellfish. Pain relieving medicines can help reduce the pain and swelling of a gout attack. Often these types of medicines are best taken at the first sign of your symptoms and stopped once your attack has settled. Over-the-counter medications that have an anti-inflammatory effect, such as ibuprofen or diclofenac can be taken to relieve pain and reduce swelling. Ask your Doctor or your local Advantage Pharmacist if these medicines are suitable for you, as there are alternative prescription medications that may provide you with further relief. Note: Aspirin should not be used for pain relief during a gout attack, as high levels may make your symptoms worse. Low dose aspirin can usually be continued if advised by your Doctor.
Preventing Gout Attacks
After experiencing gout once, it is likely that you may experience further attacks throughout your life. Preventative measures to avoid further gout attacks include:
- Try to maintain a healthy body weight.
- Cut down on excessive alcohol consumption, especially beer.
- Drink plenty of water. Recommended 8 standard glasses per day, or if otherwise advised.
- Exercise at a moderate level for at least 30 minutes on most or preferably all days of the week.
- Try to manage high blood pressure and limit your salt intake.
- Foods high in proteins and purines may contribute to gout, thus intake should be moderate. Such foods include: organ meats, shellfish, yeast, beans, lentils and fructose (which is found in most soft drinks).
- Work closely with your Doctor to prevent further attacks and actively manage your condition.
Medication to prevent gout is available with a prescription by your doctor. This type of medicine will not relieve the symptoms of your gout attack and should be taken regularly every day, whether or not you have any symptoms. Your Doctor would advise you if this type of medication is suitable for you.