4 Things You Need To Know About Gout

Posted on: 2 February 2015

Gout is a painful type of arthritis that often affects the big toe joint, but other joints in your body can also be affected. It causes severe pain in the affected joint, as well as swelling and tenderness. Here's what you need to know about this unpleasant condition.

What causes this condition?

Gout is caused by uric acid, a waste product that your kidneys are supposed to filter out of your blood. If your body makes too much uric acid, your kidneys can't keep up, and the acid builds up in your body, in the form of crystals. These crystals irritate the lining of your joints, causing the intense pain associated with gout. 

Why would your body produce too much uric acid? Eating foods like red meat, seafood, or organ meats, drinking alcohol, or drinking sugary drinks like soda can cause this reaction in your body.

How common is it?

Gout is a fairly common condition in the United States. About 3.9% of the general population has the condition, which works out to more than 8 million people. Gout is much more common in men than in women: 5.9% of men have gout while only 2.0% of women do. Gout affects black people about twice as often as it affects people of other races. 

Can gout lead to more serious problems?

If gout is left untreated, more serious problems can be the result. The bone and cartilage in the toe can be destroyed by the buildup of uric acid in the tissues. The kidneys can be damaged by this acid, as well. 

Gout has also been linked to other health issues, such as heart problems and diabetes. These diseases are linked because they are caused or worsened by the same lifestyle factors: exercise, diet, and alcohol use. If you develop gout, consider it a warning sign that you need to make some changes in your lifestyle. 

Can it be treated?

There are a few different treatment options for gout. Anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to treat flare ups of the condition, and steroid medications can also be used. There are also drugs available that block uric acid production in your body, which means that it can't build up and form crystals.

Gout is a painful condition, but fortunately, it can be treated. If your big toe is sore and swollen, make an appointment with a podiatrist to discuss your options.