Gout is a sophisticated form of arthritis, one that’s characterized by the quick and severe waves of pain, tenderness, and redness – often in the big toe. It can subside, bringing days without pain, only to be followed by another onset of attacks, known as flare-ups. There is no cure for gout, although prevention and management techniques exist to reduce the side effects of this painful illness.
How is gout caused?
Gout is caused due to too much uric acid in the blood. High levels crystallize the acid, which forms around the bone or cartilage. The exact cause can be attributed to genetics, diet, and various medical conditions. Those with gout cannot process these crystals properly, and so they collect in the joint.
Genetics has the strongest influence on your uric acid levels, while medical conditions can also affect them, with diet far behind. For the latter, it is believed that a healthy diet, mixed with exercise, can help manage uric levels. Specifically, avoiding foods such as shellfish, red meat, and beer help to control gout.
How can you prevent gout?
The best way to prevent gout is to focus on your uric acid levels, doing what you can to keep them under control. Achieving this involves lifestyle and dietary changes, focusing on drinking plenty of fluids to flush out the uric acid, as well as eating foods with low levels of purine (the compound that creates uric acid).
To manage your uric acid levels, you should lead a healthy lifestyle. That being said, there is no sure-fire, end-all solution out there, only ways to lower your uric acid levels. There is no available pharmaceutical explicitly used to treat gout, just medication to treat other illnesses that help with controlling uric acid levels associated with gout.
As far as medications, Allopurinol is often used to give baseline control. Colchicine and Indomethacin are used to help with flares.
What do you do during a flare-up?
Prevention is an excellent method of dealing with gout; however, if you already have it, what do you do during a flare-up to alleviate the pain? Let’s assume you are woken up in the middle of the night by an attack: first, you need to schedule an appointment with a doctor as soon as you can.
Gout is usually not life-threatening, but getting treatment within the first 24 hours of the start of attack is recommended. Professional help is recommended to treat flare-ups. Generally, a physician will first advise you to take some anti-inflammatory, over-the-counter medicine such as Motrin, Advil, or Aleve. Do not take any aspirin, as it can make the flare-up worse. You can also create an ice pack for yourself, putting it on the affected area, and drink plenty of fluids while you do this. Take the pressure off your foot and elevate it so that it’s higher than your heart.
Avoid alcohol and try to relax – there’s not much else you can do until you see your doctor. Also, if you don’t have any allergies to them, consider eating tart cherries or tart cherry extracts for management of gout.