Gout is a common type of arthritis that is very painful, and it is usually accompanied by swelling and stiffness. It normally affects a single joint at a time (typically the big toe). When the symptoms of gout get worse it is known as flares, and when there are no symptoms it is known remission.
Causes of Gout
Gout is caused by the build-up of uric acid in the blood (hyperuricemia) from the breakdown of purines. Purines are chemical compounds that are normally found in high amounts in certain foods such as poultry, meat and seafood. When there is too much uric acid in the body, monosodium urate (uric acid crystals) can build up in fluids, joints and tissues within the body.
Uric acid is normally dissolved in the blood and excreted from the body in urine through the kidneys. If there is too much uric acid that is produced or enough of it is not excreted, it can build up forming needle-like crystals which trigger pain and inflammation in the joints and surrounding tissues.
Symptoms of Gout
Gout flares can start suddenly and last for days or weeks at a time followed by long periods of remission – weeks, months or even years sometimes – before another flare begins.
Gout typically occurs in one joint at a time and it usually affects the big toe. Other joints that can get affected with gout are the ankle, knee and the lesser toe joints.
Symptoms of gout in the affected joint(s) include:
- Intense pain
Some individuals have too much uric acid in their blood but do not have symptoms. This is known as asymptomatic gout.
Acute gout is when the symptoms develop quickly from the build-up of uric acid crystals in the joint and they can last for 3 to 10 days.
If gout is not treated early enough it can become chronic and permanently damage your joints.
Diagnosis of Gout
Gout can be diagnosed based on the review of your medical history, your symptoms, a physical exam and x-rays.
A joint fluid test can also be carried out whereby fluid is extracted from the affected joint with a needle and examined to see if there is presence of any urate crystals.
Gout is more likely to be diagnosed during a flare when a joint is swollen, hot and painful.
Treatment of Gout
When gout is left untreated, it can lead to arthritis and leave your joint permanently damaged and swollen.
Although currently there is no cure for gout, it can be effectively managed with medication and self-management treatment. Your doctor may prescribe pain relievers to bring down the inflammation or to lower the uric acid levels and prevent future flares.
You will also be asked to make some lifestyle changes so as to manage your symptoms and minimize the risk of having future attacks such as losing weight, eating a healthy diet and minimizing on the foods that may trigger a gout flare, reduce alcohol intake and quit smoking.
At King’s College Hospital Dubai, we focus on offering an exemplary service, from initial consultation through to final diagnosis and treatment and beyond. Our multidisciplinary team of expert doctors, nurses, physio therapists are here to offer tailored management and treatment of your condition, and to answer any questions that you might have throughout your time with us. Whatever you need us for, we’re only a phone-call away.
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