We recently posted an article about over the counter painkillers for arthritis and some of you have encountered the term “gout” for the first time. It’s not a surprise as we often only know of the term arthritis and not its sub-types. However, this is important to know, especially once symptoms start to appear. Ouch. You can’t imagine the pain. What is gouty arthritis anyway? What are the symptoms? How is treated? What dietary changes should you do to avoid it? Here, we try an answer those questions.
Signs and Symptoms
The first symptom of gouty arthritis is typically the sudden onset of a hot, red, swollen, stiff, painful joint. The most common joint involved is in the foot at the base of the big toe where swelling can be associated with severe tenderness. However, almost any joint can be involved such as the knee, ankle, and small joints of the hands. The first attacks stop spontaneously, typically within one to two weeks, even without treatment. However, gouty arthritis commonly returns in the same joint or in another joint.
What Causes It?
Our bodies all have a breakdown product called uric acid which is mostly produced by the body. Our body breaks down substances known as purines which eventually passes out in our urine. If uric acid does not pass out of the body, or if you produce too much, it can build up and form crystals. These crystals are then deposited around the body’s joints, causing inflammation and pain. Purines are found naturally in the body and also in some foods, such as shellfish, red meat and offal, and certain alcohols, such as beer and stout. So what causes gouty arthritis is either overproduction or under-excretion of purine. It’s usually the former, being mostly lifestyle and diet involved.
How Is It Treated?
As mentioned in an earlier article we posted, arthritis can be treated initially with OTC painkillers. These painkillers, however, do not treat the underlying cause. For gouty arthritis, medications can either be used to treat the hot, swollen joint, or to prevent further attacks of gout. The usual drugs used in the management of pain caused by gout are NSAIDs, Colchicine, and Corticosteroids. Ask your physician which ones should you take because some NSAIDs are OTC while the rest require a prescription.
We recommend that you eat a low-cholesterol and low-fat diet if you’re suspecting gout. Start a low-purine diet and avoid types of food that are high in purine such as shellfish and red meat as well. Get the whole family involved because if you alone are restricting your diet, “cheat” rates are usually higher. For example, if the rest of the family is still eating red meat everyday and you are not, you will be more tempted to eat too. We also recommend that you slowly lose weight as this can lower your uric acid levels. Losing weight too rapidly can occasionally precipitate gout attacks.