Gout is actually a form of arthritis caused by an excess amount of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid comes from two sources – our bodies and our diet. Extra amounts of uric acid usually filter through the kidneys and get passed in our urine. If the body produces too much uric acid or fails to excrete it in the urine, crystals of monosodium urate form in our joints and tendons. These crystals, in turn, cause inflammation leading to swelling, redness and often excruciating pain.
Gout occurs more often in men than women, and most often the pain of an attack is felt in the big toe but sometimes in other joints, including the ankles, knees, elbows, thumbs or fingers.
While genetics may play a role in occurrences of gout, it appears the majority of gout cases can be explained by modifiable risk factors. These include obesity, diet and alcohol consumption, and certain medications.
- Obesity – Carrying extra weight makes it harder to remove excess uric acid, and it’s a good idea to shed those extra pounds to reduce the risk of gout.
- Diet and alcohol – Generally, it’s best to limit the consumption of foods and beverages likely to increase uric acid levels. These include red meat, sardines, mussels, bacon and beer. To lessen the possibility of gout, many specialists recommend the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
- Medications – Some individuals may benefit from not taking certain medications like diuretics commonly used to lower blood pressure. Some of these are associated with high uric acid levels and might be replaced with other uric acid-lowering blood pressure medications.
Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications and supplements you’re taking and discuss the need for a possible change.