Fact: The symptoms of gout, a form of inflammatory arthritis (there are more than 100 types of arthritis), can be more severe than achy, painful joints. The buildup of uric acid in the blood, which is what causes joint inflammation and gout, is also associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
A bout of gout causes sudden, severe pain and swelling. It often occurs in the large joint of the big toe — an typically just one joint — but it can also affect other joints in the feet, ankles, knees, wrists, hands and elbows. If left untreated, gout may become chronic and affect multiple joints at a time. It may also cause deposits of urate crystals to accumulate under the skin in nodules called tophi; if they form in the urinary tract, they can cause kidney stones. With medical attention, however, gout can usually be treated within a few hours.
Lifestyle interventions can also help prevent gouty attacks. “Controlling uric acid levels, achieving normal body weight for people who are overweight, and staying away from beer — which is known to increase the risk of gout — are important in reducing the risk of gout and the complications of high uric acid levels,” says Dr. Matteson.
Other tips from the Mayo Clinic:
- Drink lots of fluids, mostly water. Limit sweetened beverages
- Limit consumption of meat, fish and poultry. Get your protein from low-fat dairy
- Get down to a healthy weight, but don’t fast or lose weight too quickly — that can raise uric acid levels
An estimated 6.1 million Americans have had at least one gout attack, according to the Arthritis Foundation. It most commonly affects men over the age 30. Women are less likely to develop gout, but those who do typically experience it after menopause.