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If you have Gout, you understand a thing or two about severe and relentless pain. What is it and what causes it? Read on….
What is gout?
Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that occurs when there is an overabundance of uric acid in the body. Uric acid is the byproduct of the metabolization of compounds called purines, a step that is necessary for our body to create energy. Purines are naturally produced by our body’s cells and can be found in certain foods as well. While the generated uric acid should effortlessly be flushed by our liver and kidneys, there are times in which the body is not able to cleanse itself as fast as the rate of production. As a result, uric acid then accumulates in the bloodstream, causing a condition called hyperuricemia. The excess uric acid takes on a crystalline form that congregates around the joints.
How does this feel? Acute Gout is characterized by the sudden onset of pain, redness and swelling, most commonly around the base of the big toe. However, other joints such as fingers, wrist, elbows, and ankles can also be affected. The first acute attack can last between 3 to 10 days. If left untreated, subsequent flare-ups can last longer and become more frequent.
Who Does Gout Affect?
Gout can affect anyone, but more often affects middle-aged men and post-menopausal women. It is often associated with the eating of rich, fatty foods and too much alcohol, earning the label “the disease of kings.” Research shows that overconsumption of beer, being overweight, and consuming foods rich with purines can indeed increase uric acid levels. While these lifestyle choices can clearly increase risks, other factors such as heredity and thyroid issues can trigger incidences of gout.
An examination of the affected region and an overview of your medical history will give your doctor the information needed to determine the underlying cause and treatment of your joint pain. Diagnostic tests may include withdrawing fluids from the area around the inflamed body part, as well as blood and urine tests.
Are there treatments for Gout?
While Gout is a chronic disease, under most circumstances it can be managed. Flare-ups can be reduced and possibly prevented with medication and/or lifestyle changes. Early intervention during an episode medication can lead to a decline in frequency of acute attacks, and prevent permanent damage to joints and the kidneys.
- Ice Packs – apply cold packs or cold compresses to the area to minimize inflammation and lessen the pain. Ice the joint for 20 to 30 minutes several times a day.
- Rest – to hasten the healing process, rest the inflicted joint on a pillow that is raised above your heart to lessen throbbing.
- Hydrate – when you’re dehydrated, the uric acid in your blood will be more concentrated. Therefore, drink plenty of water.
- Avoid Purines – consumption of seafood, organ meats like liver, and sweets can contribute to your uric acid imbalance. Avoid eating too many purine-rich foods and beverages; instead, focus on incorporating complex carbohydrates and fruits like apples, grapes and cranberries.
Choosing The Right Footwear
The shoes you wear can aggravate Gout-related symptoms. Women should avoid wearing heels that put unnatural pressure on the front of their feet. Both men and women should look for shoes with wide toe boxes, so that their toes have as much room to move as possible. The outsoles should also be designed to absorb shock. Luckily, brands like Dansko, Vionic by Orthaheel, New Balance, and Drew manufacture wellness shoes for men and women that meet all of these qualifications to provide the utmost comfort possible.