Q. What is Gout?
A. Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis that affects an estimated 6 million Americans. It occurs when an excess of uric acid in the blood forms needle-like crystals in the joints and/or soft tissue. This can trigger an acute gout attack marked by pain, tenderness, redness, warmth and swelling. For more information on what gout is, click here.
Q. What Causes Gout?
A. Gout is caused when urate crystals accumulate in the soft tissue and joints causing the inflammation and intense pain associated with a gout attack. Urate crystals can form when there are high levels of uric acid in the blood. This is called hyperuricemia. For more information on the causes, click here.
Q. What are the Symptoms of Gout?
A. During a gout attack, symptoms may include swelling, pain, tenderness, redness and heat in the affected joint or area. In the early stages, there may be no symptoms between attacks. If the disease progresses to an advanced stage, there may be chronic pain between gout attacks. For more information on the effects of gout, click here.
Q. How Do I Know if I Have Gout?
A. Only your doctor can accurately diagnose gout. If you are worried that symptoms you're having could be gout, it is important to make an appointment with your doctor to be examined.
Q. How is Gout Managed?
A. To manage gout and lower your risk for future attacks and related complications, experts recommend lowering levels of uric acid in the blood to less than 6.0 mg/dL through a combination of strategies tailored to the individual, which might include medication and lifestyle strategies, such as diet changes and weight loss. It's important to visit your doctor to determine the best management plan for you. For more information on management options, click here.
Q. Who is Likely to Get Gout?
A. Anyone who has high levels of uric acid in their blood may develop gout. But there are certain things that can put you at increased risk:
- Being overweight
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Drinking lots of sweetened beverages, especially soda
- Being dehydrated
- Eating lots of certain purine-rich foods
- Having a family history of gout
- Certain medical conditions like high blood pressure
- Low kidney function
- Use of medications like diuretics (sometimes called "water pills"), cyclosporine and low-dose aspirin
Q. What Should I Know About Gout Attacks?
A. The most common symptom of a gout attack is waking up in the middle of the night with sharp pain in the big toe or another joint. It's best to prepare ahead of time for a potential gout attack. Talk to your doctor about medication that can be kept on hand for immediate treatment when an attack flares. While you should be prepared "just in case," it can be reassuring to know it's possible to reduce your risk of another gout attack by getting and sticking to a gout management plan that includes strategies for lowering your uric acid level.
Q. What Happens if I Don't Manage My Gout?
A. Gout is a chronic condition. As gout progresses, the attacks may become more frequent. Urate crystal deposits, called tophi, may also develop in the soft tissue and joints. This may ultimately lead to deformity and joint destruction. Gout that is not managed well may also put people at high risk of heart disease and stroke.
Q. What Can I Do to Avoid Gout Attacks?
A. Carefully follow the management plan you develop with your doctor. Follow through on the recommended diet and lifestyle changes, as well as any medications recommended to address the underlying cause of gout. It is important to keep the lines of communication open with your doctor so he or she can determine if your current management plan is the best for you. For more information on preventing future attacks, click here.
Q. What Do Food Choices Have to Do With Gout?
A. Though foods high in purines are not the cause of gout, they can trigger a gout attack. Your doctor can help you figure out which foods you should minimize and which you should eat more of. Before seeing your doctor, try keeping a food journal. Write down what you eat each day and keep track of any gout attacks. For a list of foods high in purines, click here.
Q. Do I Have to Take Gout Medication Forever?
A. Your doctor will decide if, and for how long, you need medication to manage your gout. But since gout is a chronic condition, you will need to be monitored on an ongoing basis. It's important to keep in touch with your doctor so that he or she can test your uric acid levels regularly and maintain the right management plan for you.