Many people have heard the term “gout” but do not know what it means. Gout is a disease that was first identified as early as 2640 BC and still remains a major and growing public health concern.
Gout is a common form of arthritis – a disorder affecting the joints and musculoskeletal system. Gout is caused by an excess of uric acid in the bloodstream. Uric acid is produced in the body by the breakdown of purines- specific chemicals that are found in certain foods such as meat, seafood and poultry. Uric acid dissolves in the blood and is excreted in urine via the kidneys. When too much uric acid is produced, or not enough is excreted, it can build up and form crystals that cause inflammation and pain in the joints and surrounding tissue.
Gout is frequently characterized by severe and sudden pain, redness, often during the night, and most commonly affecting the big toe. Ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and fingers may also be affected.
Tests to diagnosis gout include a blood test to measure the levels of uric acid in the blood and a joint fluid test, where fluid is extracted from an affected joint and sent to be examined for urate crystals.
Most gout events are treated with medication. Medication may treat the symptoms of gout attacks, prevent future outbreaks and reduce the risk of gouty complications.
Foods high in purines should be avoided to lower the levels of uric acid. High purine foods include anchovies, herring, mackerel, sardines, and scallops. Additional foods include asparagus, dried beans and peas, gravy, game meats, brains and sweetbreads. One should maintain a high fluid intake and avoid alcohol to decrease future flares.