Uric acid is a substance that is created by the body when it breaks down foods that contain purines. It is also naturally present in the body. In normal individuals, this substance passes through the liver and intestines to be broken down. Purines that are metabolized by the liver become uric acid. Healthy people are able to process a large amount of purines. The substance is dissolved by blood and excreted in urine. However, people who have trouble processing purines end up with too much uric acid in their blood. This is medically known as hyperuicemia. This can be caused by an overproduction of the substance or from inadequate kidney function, because the organ was not able to remove enough of the uric acid from the blood. Regardless of why the excess uric acid is present, its existence doesn’t necessarily result in gout.
Many people with hyperuicemia don’t experience any symptoms of their condition, others do. Some people who have too much uric acid in their bodies eventually develop gout. Gout is an excruciating form of arthritis that is caused when there is a buildup of uric acid in the bloodstream. The buildup alone isn’t what causes gout to develop. Usually gout doesn’t start to form until uric acid levels start to exceed seven milligrams per deciliter. At that level, the excess uric acid starts to harden into tiny sharp crystals. The amount of pain, stiffness and burning it causes are often severe and debilitating for many.
Gout, the Disease of Kings
For many years, this disease was called the “disease of kings” because it was associated with the people who indulged in large amounts of food and wine, both of which were easily obtainable by people who were rich. However, anyone can suffer from this disease. There isn’t an exact method to determine who will develop gout in their lifetime. However, there are certain factors that can increase one’s risk for it.
Gout Risk Factors
People who usually develop gout do so because they have higher risk factors than normal individuals. Factors that can lead to elevated uric acid levels include:
- Untreated high blood pressure
- Undiagnosed and untreated diabetes
- High levels of stress
- Metabolic syndrome
- Use of certain medications
- Trauma or surgical procedures
- Lead exposure
- Over consumption of meat, shellfish and high fructose containing foods
Although gout can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes, some people are at risk of developing more severe medical conditions, such as recurrent gout, advanced gout and kidney stones.
How Gout is Diagnosed
Gout can be extremely painful to experience. Receiving prompt medical treatment can help to resolve an unexpected gout attack. However, if you are interested in managing the condition in a more holistic manner, you will need to implement a variety of lifestyle changes that can help to improve the way your body responds to uric acid production. You should seek out medical attention right away if you experience any of the following signs:
Presence of uric acid crystals
- Severe and frequent acute arthritis flare-ups
- Sudden onset of arthritis that results in an inflamed joint that is swollen and warm to the touch
- Arthritis in a toe, knee or ankle
If the condition goes untreated for too long, the affected joint can become permanently damaged and severe kidney problems can occur. Both of these conditions can greatly impact one’s mobility and overall health.
How to Prevent Gout Attacks
If you’ve experienced at least one gout attack in your life, it is important for you to have your uric levels checked. Once a gout attacks occurs, the next one may not happen again for several months or years. The next flare-up can also happen again in the same week. Flare-ups usually take days to resolve. Gout must be treated to reduce the severity of attacks and in some cases prevent them altogether. Treatment can be administered in the following ways:
Medications: People who suffer from acute gout attacks may be prescribed corticosteroids, NSAIDS and colchine. There are also other medications that help to lower uric acid levels. However, they are most effective in the absence of gout attacks.
Diet: Individuals with high levels of uric acid should modify their diets by limiting the amount of uric acid creating foods and beverages they consume. These foods typically include liver, bacon, veal, beef, chicken, ham, anchovies, tuna, asparagus, fava beans, and beer.
Lifestyle: People who are overweight should make changes to their daily habits that will allow them achieve and maintain a healthy weight and fitness level. However, losing weight too fast can cause uric acid levels to spike.
Holistic approach: Many people are able to get control over the condition and prevent future gout flare-ups by adding certain nutrients and supplements.
Gout is a treatable condition. Regardless of the method of treatment that is chosen, the goal is to reduce the amount of uric acid in the body so that it is below six milligrams per deciliter. However, successful gout therapy must be tailored to the needs of the individual. With the right approach and combination of treatments, gout sufferers can become gout-free.