Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis that is the result of a build-up of uric acid crystals in the joints, causing sudden and severe pain.
The Four Stages of Gout
The four stages of gout include asymptomatic hyperuricemia, acute gout, interval gout, and chronic gout.
With asymptomatic hyperuricemia, symptoms of gout generally are not present but your blood uric acid levels will be high. Acute gout happens as a result of something causing your uric acid levels to spike (such as drinking alcohol), resulting in pain and inflammation. The symptoms of an acute gout attack usually ease after a few days and will go away within 7 to 10 days. Similar to asymptomatic hyperuricemia, pain is often not experienced with interval gout. However, inflammation may be damaging joints. Lastly, we’ll take a look at chronic gout. Individuals with chronic gout usually have high uric acid levels over a number of years with an increase in attacks as well as joint damage. By paying close attention to your lifestyle and making any necessary changes as outlined by Dr. Ali Ghahary below, you can often avoid this stage of gout all together.
What Causes Gout?
As mentioned, gout is due to a build-up of uric acid crystals. Knowing what causes these crystals to form in the first place is a key factor in avoiding developing gout, and lifestyle plays a major role. Your diet, for example. Things like red meats and organ meats (i.e. liver), shellfish (i.e. lobster and shrimp), redefined carbs (i.e. white rice, white bread, and pasta), processed foods (i.e. frozen dinners, potato chips and other snack foods), sugary beverages and alcohol should all be avoided. Crash diets, fasting and dehydration can also contribute to gout. There are also medical reasons that can cause gout to develop, such as injuries to joints, surgery, sudden or severe illness, infections, diuretic medications, and even chemotherapy.
Who Gets Gout?
Although gout typically affects more men in Canada than it does women, females can also still develop gout. The first gout attack can be experienced anywhere from the age of 30 to 50. Along with some of the aforementioned causes, you are also at risk of developing gout if there is a history of it in your family, are overweight, or have undergone bypass surgery.
How is Gout Diagnosed?
In order to accurately diagnose gout, Dr. Ali Ghahary will look at a patient’s complete medical history and examine the affected joints. Typically, the areas of the body that gout affects the most are the feet, ankles or knees. Dr. Ali Ghahary will then refer patients for a blood test to check their uric acid levels, in addition to medical imaging tests such as X-rays, ultrasounds, an MRI or CT scan to examine the soft tissue and bone.
How is Gout Treated?
Gout is commonly treated with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) as well as medication to reduce the production of uric acid. If you are experiencing an acute attack, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends icing the affected area and keeping the joint elevated. It’s also important to stay as relaxed as possible, as stress and anxiety can also trigger gout. As you may have trouble performing daily tasks during a gout attack, you may require assistance from friends or family members, so don’t feel bad about reaching out for help if you need it.