Gout ManagementThere are two different types of gout management. The first is short term: the immediate care required during a gout attack. The second is long term: a plan to reduce the risk of gout attacks and potential effects of the disease over time.
Coping With a Gout Attack
Even if you are making recommended lifestyle changes and consistently taking any medication you have been prescribed, you may still have an attack, especially at first. It’s smart to be prepared.
Ask your doctor about keeping medication on hand in case you have a gout attack. That way, you can immediately begin treatment with anti-inflammatory medications that may stop or ease an attack.
During an attack, be sure to rest and protect the affected joint or joints, and drink plenty of fluids. Some people find putting an ice pack over an affected joint helps.
As soon as you are feeling a little better, make an appointment for after the attack is fully resolved to discuss diet and other lifestyle issues as well as any treatment that may help over the long term and reduce the risk of a recurrence.
A Long-Term Management Plan
If you've recently been diagnosed with gout, now is the time to realize that gout doesn't have to keep you from doing the things you love. With proper management, you can continue to live your life the way you want.
The goals of treatment are to ease the pain and to avoid future attacks and long-term complications like joint destruction. A well-balanced management plan typically includes medication, as well as lifestyle changes. Your plan may include one or more of the following:
- Changing Medications. If you're taking diuretics or some of the other drugs that can increase the risk of gout, your doctor will consider alternatives or dosage adjustments.
- Creating an Action Plan in Case of an Attack. Your doctor will give you self-management tactics for coping with an attack and may also provide one or more prescriptions to keep on hand to relieve pain and shorten the attack's duration.
- Taking Prescribed Medication. Your doctor may prescribe one or more medications that may help lower your uric acid level over time. Be sure to take them exactly as directed.
- Avoiding Certain High-Purine Foods. Foods high in purines that have been found to increase the risk of gout include red meats (such as steak and hamburger), organ meat (such as kidney or liver) and seafood, including shellfish (such as shrimp). Better options for someone with gout include fresh fruits and vegetables (including nuts and legumes), low-fat dairy and whole-grain carbohydrates.
- Losing Weight. Losing weight can help reduce the levels of uric acid in the blood. Your doctor will advise a balanced diet and regular exercise and can help you with an appropriate weight-loss plan.
- Seeing Your Doctor Regularly. Your doctor will want you to have periodic check-ups that include testing your uric acid levels. Lowering and maintaining uric acid levels to less than 6.0 mg/dL is considered by many doctors a key management goal. Managing uric acid levels may help reduce the risk of future gout attacks.
- Drinking Lots of Water. Keeping your body hydrated with non-alcoholic drinks can help flush uric acid from the blood. Limiting sweetened beverages, especially sugary sodas, is also advised.
- Reducing Alcoholic Beverages. Avoid more than a moderate intake of alcohol, particularly beer and liquor. This means no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
For more information on treatment options and medications, click here.
Many Good Reasons to Take Action
After getting through a first or even second gout attack, you may feel relieved and hope that it never happens again. However, hope isn't enough, because in most people gout progresses. The attacks can become more frequent and more severe, and eventually the pain may become chronic and physical deformities may occur.
Those are good reasons to get gout under control, but there are more. People who have gout also tend to have other health issues, such as obesity, kidney problems and cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and hardening of the arteries. Increasingly science is showing that getting gout under control means lowering uric acid along with lifestyle changes and medication, which also can reduce risk of these other health issues.