Gout is a rather painful form of arthritis that is a consequence of abnormal metabolism of uric acid which causes an excess of this waste product to be released into the bloodstream. Uric acid is produced due to the breakdown of a chemical compound called purine which is present in various meats, poultry and seafood.

 

Why Gout Happens

Either of the two anomalies occurs in a gout patient:

 

  • Too much uric acid is produced in the body.
  • More commonly, the body is unable to expel uric acid efficiently, thus causing a build-up.

 

This build up manifests itself in the body as needle-like urate crystals which settle in the joints, thus causing pain and inflammation. Typically, the pain and inflammation is experienced suddenly, usually triggered by some former bodily activity. In many individuals, the aching begins unprecedented, in the middle of the night. Though 70% of first gout flare-ups are experienced in the big toe, the condition can manifest in the insoles, heels, knees, fingers, wrists and elbows as well.

 

The symptoms of a gout attack, namely pain, swelling, redness and warmth in a joint region, can last anywhere between 12 hours and 2 weeks (if left untreated). With speedy medical attention however, the healing process may not take as long. For most individuals, a second attack occurs no less than a year later. As the condition worsens however, the attacks become more frequent, their symptoms more severe and relief is achieved more slowly. In some severe and advanced cases, kidney stones and tophi (nodule like formations) may get formed due to the excess of uric acid.


Risk Factors

There are several factors that cause some individuals to be more susceptible to gout than others. Risk factors which increase proclivity to gout contraction include the following:

 

  • Genetic: Recent research has found close links between genetic heritage and the incidence of gout. Those with a family history of gout are at higher risk of suffering from the condition.
  • Gender: Men are more prone to uric acid overproduction. Thus, more cases of gout occur in men rather than women.
  • Age: In women, gout is more likely to occur post menopause.
  • Lifestyle: High alcohol intake and consumption of purine-rich foods such as red meats, oily fish and those containing yeast extract have been linked to higher risk of gout.
  • Exposure to Lead: Lead exposure over a protracted period of time has been known to cause gout in some cases.
  • Weight: People who are overweight have more tissue in the body. This allows for more turnover or breakdown, thereby increasing risk of high uric acid production.
  • Medications: Certain medicines such as diuretics and salicylate-rich drugs cause higher levels of uric acid to be released into the bloodstream. This increases vulnerability to gout.
  • Other Medical Conditions: Renal inefficiency prevents adequate expulsion of waste products from the body. This may cause uric acid levels to rise, thus causing gout. Also, hypertension, hypothyroidism and diabetes are known to increase risk of gout attacks in affected individuals.

 

It is evident from the above that gout is a condition that may be caused and intensified by certain habits and lifestyle choices that cause abnormal uric acid metabolism. Therefore it is recommended that those with a family history of gout or medical conditions linked to gout remain alert to the possibility gout contraction. Such individuals should consciously avoid consuming too much alcohol, eating purine-rich foods and being overweight. With a few alterations in one’s daily habits and routine, anyone can decrease the risk of gout to a significant degree.