Gout is a painful, complex manifestation of arthritis which is characterized by sudden, unprecedented aching and inflammation of one joint region of the body. The condition usually occurs as attacks that last for anywhere between 12 hours to a fortnight, depending upon the severity and stage of its development.
Since it is caused due to heightened levels of uric acid in the body, it is believed that some changes in diet and lifestyle alone can cure gout that is mild and infrequent. Studies have proved however, that in instances where gout is severe, even the most rigorous diet is incapable of lowering serum uric acid levels to a significant degree. Thus, in cases where the disease occurs with a fair degree of potency, a combination of both medication and lifestyle alteration is highly recommended.
What Does Treatment Do
Treatment for gout is administered with a tri-fold prerogative of lessening its action upon the body:
- Quick relief from the immediate symptoms of pain, swelling and redness in the affected area.
- Prevention of future gout attacks by targeting the cause of disease, i.e., increased uric acid levels in the bloodstream.
- Avoidance of long-term complications such as the formation of tophi, kidney stones and permanent joint damage.
To ensure that treatment targets all three aspects, several kinds of medication may be prescribed, based on the assessment and discretion of the physician consulted.
For treating the immediate symptoms if gout attacks, a doctor may prescribe one or a combination of the following medications:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These are meant to diminish the swelling in joints. Higher dosage of prescription NSAIDs may be given to treat an acute attack while mild, over-the-counter variants may continued post recovery to prevent further attacks.
- Colchicine: A type of pain-reliever known to effectively diminish intense gout aches, it is usually prescribed for immediate relief only in severe cases. This is because the drug’s effectiveness is offset by some highly troublesome side-effects including nausea, vomiting, and even diarrhoea in some cases. Very seldom is colchicine prescribed for long-terms usage to prevent recurrence of gout attacks.
- Corticosteroids: Such medication, which targets both pain and inflammation, is usually reserved for patients who cannot take either NSAIDs or colchicine due to severe side effects or their interference with other conditions. Corticosteroids can either be taken as pills or be injected directly onto the site of attack. The possible side effects include mood swings, altered blood sugar levels and heightened blood pressure.
While these are the medications meant for short-term relief and some long-term benefits, in cases where recurrent or very severe attacks occur, physicians prescribe other drugs to prevent further complications. These include:
- Xanthine oxidase inhibitors, which limit uric acid production and thus reduce amount of this waste product in the body.
- Other medication which helps in the expulsion of uric acid from the body by targeting the kidneys’ functionality.
While it goes without saying that all medication prescribed by a competent physician must be consumed as advised, certain lifestyle changes can also help lower the severity and incidence of gout attacks.
Typically, experts recommend that a well-planned cycle of medication should be supplemented by the following changes in daily habits and lifestyle:
- Limiting the consumption of alcoholic and sugary beverages.
- Switching to a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, which apart from reducing propensity to gout attacks, also lowers risk of heart disease which patients of the former are at higher risk of.
- Avoiding consumption of purine-rich food for purines are the bio-chemicals that get metabolized into uric acid.
These measures are not simply conducive to the treatment of gout, but also general health and well-being. Patients of gout should however make a special, conscious effort to adopt these changes and make their system less vulnerable to gout attacks.