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Gout

 

Gout is a form of arthritis that is characterised by sudden pain in your joints. This is due to small crystals forming in your joints, leading to swelling and inflammation. It commonly affects the big toe, but may also affect the ankles, knees, wrists and elbow. Gout is more common in older people, especially men, with 16.5% of Australian men aged over 70 years being affected.      

 

Cause  

People with gout have high levels of uric acid, a waste product that is normally removed by the kidneys. High levels of uric acid in the bloodstream, known as hyperuricaemia, leads to formation of small urate crystals which are deposited in the joints to cause pain and inflammation. Some of the risk factors for gout include:  

  • being overweight or obese, having high blood pressure, high cholesterol or glucose intolerance (known as Metabolic Syndrome),  
  • consuming a high intake of purine-rich foods such as red meat, offal, shellfish and sardines,  
  • a high consumption of alcohol, especially beer, and/or  
  • taking diuretics which increase removal of water from body.      

 

Symptoms  

Gout is usually characterised by:  

  • redness and swelling in a joint,  
  • a sudden onset of pain,  
  • pain and tenderness, and/or  
  • inflammation and swelling.      

 

Diagnosis  

Gout is confirmed by your doctor if fluid taken from your joint contains urate crystals. Blood tests for uric acid levels are less accurate as levels may be normal or lowered during an episode of gout.      

 

Management

Gout is associated with significant health concerns, as hyperuricaemia is an independent risk factor for Metabolic Syndrome, kidney disease, strokes and heart attacks. In addition to being overweight, these conditions make it more difficult for the body to remove uric acid. Gradual weight loss can therefore reduce gout risk and improve overall health.       

 

Drinking large amounts of alcohol, especially beer can lead to hyperuricaemia and therefore increase your risk of gout. It is recommended that people with gout limit alcohol consumption, as this will also help with reducing weight and blood pressure. Instead, drinking more water will lessen the risk of small crystals forming in your joints.      

 

For an acute episode of gout, treatment can be provided by your doctor to resolve the pain and inflammation. Gout is also preventable so speak to your doctor for additional treatment options. If left untreated, joints may be permanently damaged and can progress to chronic health issues.      

 

Disclaimer  

The content displayed on this webpage is intended for informational purposes and is a guide only. It does not replace or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.   Information contained on this webpage must be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional before making any decisions or taking any action based on the content of this webpage.      

 

Sources  

Robinson PC, Taylor WJ & Merriman TR. Systematic review of the prevalence of gout and hyperuricaemia in Australia. Intern Med. 2012; 42(9): 997-1007.  

Arthritis Australia: http://www.arthritisaustralia.com.au/images/stories/documents/info_sheets/2014/Gout.pdf  

Better Health Channel: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Gout