Gout has been known since ancient times for its sudden attacks of severe pain, along with redness and joint stiffness, most commonly in the big toe. Persons affected occasionally wake up in the middle of the night feeling as though their big toe were on fire. And no, this is not a joke!
This type of arthritis affects 1 to 3 percent of the adult population. The risk of having gout is higher in men, people over the age of 50, individuals with a family history of the disease and those who suffer from other health problems such as hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Gout is caused by an accumulation of urate crystals in the joints, which causes inflammation and intense pain. These crystals form when there are high levels of uric acid in the blood, either because the body is producing too much of it, or because the kidneys are not working properly. The body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines – substances that are found in certain foods such as meat, anchovies, herring, asparagus and mushrooms.
A healthy lifestyle can help prevent gout. For example:
- Drinking lots of fluids
- Limiting or avoiding alcohol
- Eating a balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- People who already suffer from gout should limit their intake of meat and fish
There are certain medications to treat gout. Anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and naproxen are used to control the pain and inflammation. However, they must be used with caution, as they can irritate the digestive system and aggravate hypertension. Colchicine may be prescribed to reduce gout-related pain. People who suffer from frequent and painful attacks may also have to take medication to reduce the risk of complications.
If you have any questions about gout, don’t hesitate to consult your pharmacist.