Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What Causes Gout?

What is gout and what causes it? Gout is an incredibly painful form of arthritis. Some people state that gout causes more intense pain than any type of arthritis including rheumatoid arthritis. I happen to have both arthritis and gout. While I have never had rheumatoid arthritis, I can assure you my gout hurts far more than my arthritis when it flares up. Gout and rheumatoid arthritis often have similar symptoms, so the only real way to tell which one you have is to be diagnosed by a physician.

Specifically, What causes gout? Hyperuricemia is the main cause of this painful disease. What is hyperuricemia? Hyperuricemia is the medical term for high uric acid levels in the blood. Uric acid is a normal metabolic function of the body. The problem is it can get out of hand. It mostly gets out of hand in a couple ways. First, the body can create too much uric acid for the body to handle. The second way is when the body has it's normal amount of uric acid, but the kidneys are not able to properly process the excess uric acid. Either case can lead to gout. The extra uric acid crystallizes into your joints and an acute attack occurs.

One way in which uric acid gets too high is by eating foods that cause gout. What foods cause gout? Foods that have high purines. There is no rhyme or reason for many of the foods that increase uric acid. Some are meats, some are vegetables, some are legumes. However, here are a few things to look for. If you have gout, you should avoid organ meat, such as liver, heart, beef tongue. While most don't like these kinds of food, many do and they all have high purine levels. Game foods are usually high in purines.

As a side note, some foods you will have to experiment with. Certain purine foods affect people differently. For example, some people simply cannot eat chicken or they will have an attack, while certain people, such as myself can eat chicken all day long. Others can eat turkey, whereas I cannot. So if you really like a food and it is on the list, experiment by eating it in small portions to see if you can handle it and not have an attack. Here is an inconclusive list of gout causing foods:

beef-avoid eating the organs
bacon-if you eat it, eat the nitrate free
some beans-this one is usually person dependent

Again, this list is not a complete list.

What risk factors help cause gout?

Heredity is a fairly strong factor just like it is in many disease processes. Most people who have gout have a family member who also has gout. Just like I have gout, my father also has gout.

Surgery can be another factor in causing gout. There are people who have never had gout before who have surgery and suddenly have a very bad attack. One of the biggest risk surgeries for gout is gastric bypass surgery. A reason for this is the body being having to adjust to the extra concentration of uric acid caused by the sudden loss of weight. For the same reason, sudden weight loss in a diet can have the same effect.

While losing too much weight quickly via surgery or dieting can cause gout, being overweight is also a risk factor. Being obese especially puts a strain on your kidneys. This extra work the kidneys have to do makes it more difficult to properly process uric acid out of your system. Not to mention, most people who get this disease eat unhealthy diets full of foods that are on the moderate to high purine list. So while you do not want to lose weight quickly, if you suffer from gout, you might want to take a look at your diet and lose weight slowly to prevent a gout attack.

Medications can also be causes of gout flare up. Diuretics especially. Hydration is very important. When you become dehydrated you increase the likelihood of uric acid crystallizing. So, if you are on diuretics, such as Lasix (furosemide) and have gout get with your physician and ask how you can keep properly hydrated without adversely affecting your medication.

Men are statistically get gout more often than women, however, women are prone to this problem. Most women who get gout usually start to have symptoms after menopause.

Men usually get gout in their 40's. However, you can get it earlier. I began to have attacks when I was around 26.

Gout causes painful symptoms. Those tend to include painful, swollen joints. The swelling is due to the uric acid crystals damaging the joint. The body sends an inflammatory signal to try and heal the joint. Unfortunately, by attempting to heal the body it causes great pain. This underlying cause, or uric acid crystals need to be treated or they will eventually debilitate your joints. Untreated gout can lead to crippled and deformed joints.

Chronic gout also has symptoms. These are shown as white nodules under the skin. These nodules are called tophi. These are collections of uric acid concentrations in the skin.

There are gout treatments you can use to get rid of this disease. These include eating a low purine diet. Also eating fruits is very important. Fruits are beneficial because of their vitamin C and potassium. These two elements help reduce uric acid levels and aid the kidneys in flushing out extra uric acid. Cherries for gout are one of the best things you can eat. They have a lot of potassium and vitamin C and the anthocyanins help create extra blood flow to your joints so they can flush out the crystals from your joints and heal the damage caused by them.

Other gout cures you can use if you choose are ibuprofen, febuxostat, indocin, and colchicine. I have used all of these in the past except for the febuxostat. However, I choose to try and use natural gout remedies instead of synthetic ones. You can control this with proper diet. Moderate exercise can help strengthen your joints, also. If you let it go, you run the risk of causing extensive renal damage, plus physical debilitation.

Until later,