About Uric Acid And Gout
The symptoms that characterize gout – pain, inflammation, tight, reddened skin and warmth – are caused by abnormally high levels of uric acid in the blood. This substance is a waste product that is produced by the body as it metabolizes purines, which are compounds naturally present in the body and in a wide variety of common foods. When levels of uric acid in the bloodstream are excessive, uric acid crystals can form, and in gout, these sharp, needle-like crystals accumulate in and around joints, causing an inflammatory response.
Gout usually begins in a single joint, often the one at the base of the big toe, and onset of symptoms, which frequently occurs at night, is typically very sudden and swift. Symptom flare-ups can last from several days to several weeks. After that initial gout attack, most people will go on to have others, and those attacks may affect any of a number of joints, most commonly those in the instep or heel of the foot, or in the fingers, wrists, elbows, ankles or knees. Some gout sufferers will develop hard nodules, called tophi, in joints and around joints, bones, cartilage and tendons, which are made up of uric acid crystals and may be visible as lumps under the skin.
How Do You Get Gout?
The high uric acid levels that can lead to gout may be caused by one or both of two basic mechanisms: Overproduction of uric acid in the body, and/or an impaired ability to clear uric acid from the body, which is done in urine, via the kidneys. While the exact reasons that patients develop these problems are not always known, a number of risk factors have been identified. Among these are:
- Genetics – A very common answer to the question “How do you get gout?” is from your genes, since it tends to run in families.
- Weight – Being overweight or obese increases risk.
- Alcohol consumption – Alcohol interferes with the removal of uric acid from the body.
- Diet – Eating too many foods that are rich in purines, such as red meats, organ meats and seafood, among others, can increase uric acid levels.
- Some health problems – Kidney problems, hypertension, hypothyroidism, insulin resistance, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and some forms of cancer, among other diseases and health conditions, can contribute to elevated uric acid levels and gout.
- Certain medications – Diuretics, aspirin, cyclosporine and some drugs used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease can increase risk.
What to Do about Gout Symptoms
If you have symptoms that you suspect may be gout-related, seeing your doctor as quickly as possible for uric acid level testing; diagnosis and treatment is crucial to your future health and well-being. Left untreated, this disease can gradually destroy joints, leading to chronic pain as well as disfigurement and disability. Untreated gout can also lead to kidney stones – as uric acid crystals collect in these vital organs, and chronic kidney disease. These complications and those incredibly painful attacks can be prevented with proper treatment, which generally includes a combination of lifestyle changes and medications to control uric acid levels.