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  • Writer's pictureJessica Frizzell, PA-C

10 Facts You Should Know About Gout



In the United States, gout impacts approximately 9.2 million people. This equates to nearly 3.9% of the adult population, according to the JAMA Network.


Gout is a complex condition that requires specialized treatment and particular medical care. If you or a loved one have recently been diagnosed with gout, you know the feeling of uncertainty and concern that comes with such a diagnosis.


Gout can be a confusing diagnosis, so let’s explore 10 of the most frequently-asked-questions about gout.


#1 - What is gout?


Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis that primarily affects the joints, but it can lead to organ damage and other health complications when not managed properly.


#2 - What is inflammatory arthritis?


Inflammatory arthritis is different from other forms of arthritis. For example, osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease due to the erosion of cartilage - the connective tissue that surrounds the end of your bones to protect and cushion the joint.


Inflammatory arthritis is due to an inflammatory process often brought on by an overactive immune system.


#3 - What causes gout?


Elevated uric acid in the body, known as hyperuricemia, is a condition that contributes to the development of gout.


As explained by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: “Gout happens when high levels of serum urate build up in your body, which can then form needle-shaped crystals in and around the joint. This leads to inflammation and arthritis of the joint. When the body makes too much urate, or removes too little, urate levels build up in the body.”


#4 - Are gout and pseudogout the same condition?


No. While both conditions are forms of arthritis, the underlying cause of the arthritis is not the same. The symptoms of both gout and pseudogout are caused by the accumulation and buildup of crystals in the joints, but the type of crystals differ.


Pseudogout = calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate crystals


Gout = urate crystals (known as uric acid crystals or monosodium urate crystals)


#5 - Are gout and rheumatoid arthritis connected?


Various rheumatic conditions can cause similar arthritis-like symptoms. So while gout and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) both impact the joints, they are not the same condition.


Medical News Today states: “RA is an autoimmune inflammatory condition. It occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the synovial tissues or linings of the joints … Gout is also an inflammatory disorder, but it is not an autoimmune condition. Instead, a person develops gout because of high levels of uric acid in their blood.”


#6 - What are the symptoms of gout?


The beginning stages of gout typically results in joint pain, joint redness, joint warmth, and joint swelling.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Gout usually occurs in only one joint at a time. It is often found in the big toe. Along with the big toe, joints that are commonly affected are the lesser toe joints, the ankle, and the knee.”


#7 - Can gout affect other areas of the body?


Unfortunately, gout can lead to further health complications, particularly when not managed promptly and correctly.


The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases outlines: “If gout is untreated over long periods of time, tophi can develop. A tophus is the buildup of needle-shaped crystals that cause hard lumps to form under the skin, in and around the joints and other organs. Tophi start out as painless; however, over time, they can become painful and can cause bone and soft tissue damage and misshapen joints. Some people with gout may be more likely to develop other conditions or complications, especially with the heart and kidneys.”


#8 - Is there a cure for gout?


No, there is not a cure for gout. It is considered a lifelong, chronic disease. But don’t worry, there are excellent treatment options available.


#9 - How is gout treated?


Acute gout attacks or flare-ups can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, colchicine, or corticosteroids. And while providing relief for acute symptoms is important, managing gout is also about addressing the underlying cause of gout.


Long-term gout management involves the use of other medications that are designed to lower the levels of uric acid in your blood by working

  • to decrease how much uric acid you produce

OR

  • to increase how much uric acid you eliminate through the kidneys


#10 - Are medications the only treatment option for gout?


Many patients do rely on medications to manage their gout, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle full of exercise and movement combined with eating an anti-inflammatory diet can significantly improve the severity and frequency of gout flare-ups. For gout in particular, red meat, shellfish, alcohol, and high fructose corn syrup tend to contribute to flares.


When following an anti-inflammatory diet, what you choose to put in your body is just as important as what you choose to not put in your body. It’s all about increasing the intake of anti-inflammatory foods and cutting out pro-inflammatory foods.


For more information about an anti-inflammatory diet, check out these blogs:


For more information about managing gout flares by making healthy lifestyle choices, check out this blog.


Bonus Question #11 - What should you do if you suspect you have gout?


Visit a rheumatologist!


Here at Paducah Rheumatology, we are ready to help you manage your gout symptoms and get you feeling your best.


We are accepting new patients with a physician’s referral and would love to see you. Call us at 270-408-6100 to set up an appointment.


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