For those who have gout, you’re well aware of how painful this condition can be. In fact, did you know that the condition now affects about 8.3 million Americans or 4% of the population?
Read on as our team at AFC Urgent Care NC provides some further information about gout and what you can do to avoid future flare-ups.
- What gout is: Gout is a painful form of arthritis. When your body has extra uric acid, sharp crystals may form in the big toe or other joints, causing episodes of swelling and pain called gout attacks. Gout is treatable with medications and changes in diet and lifestyle.
- What causes gout: Gout is typically caused by having an excess amount of uric acid in the bloodstream, which is medically known as hyperuricemia. Gout occurs more commonly among those who regularly drink beer or sugary beverages, who eat foods that are high in purines such as meat, poultry or seafood, or who are overweight.
- Typical gout symptoms: An episode of gout is called a gout attack. Gout attacks are very painful and can happen quite suddenly, often overnight. During a gout attack, symptoms in the affected joint(s) may include intense pain, redness, stiffness and swelling.
- Here’s what to do: If you’re experiencing a flare, take some OTC anti-inflammatory pills like ibuprofen to help with the swelling and pain. Make sure to avoid aspirin, though, as it can actually raise the level of uric acid in the bloodstream.
- What to do next: After the pain has been reduced, make sure you monitor the foods you eat. Dietary causes account for about 12% of gout cases, so make sure to stay away from foods and drinks that are purine-rich.
- What to do after: Consider the medications you are taking, if any. Medications like diuretics, also known as “water pills,” and immunosuppressants, or drugs used to slow the immune system (common in organ transplants, for example), can lead to elevated uric acid levels. Talk to your doctor about these.
- Action steps to take: One of the best things you can do to prevent future gout flare-ups from happening is by maintaining healthy habits, such as losing weight, limiting purine-rich foods, staying physically active and protecting your joints.
- Doctor recommendations: If you think you have gout but haven’t had your hypothesis medically diagnosed yet, visit your doctor or our AFC center. To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor will likely perform a physical exam and take a sample of fluid from your joint to find uric acid crystals. In some circumstances, doctors will perform a blood test to see how much uric acid is built up in your bloodstream.
Do you have further questions about gout? If so, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our AFC Urgent Care NC teams today!