Gout is caused by uric acid in the blood crystallizing (becoming solid) and ending up in the joints, tendons and surrounding tissues. The crystals will causes inflammation (redness, swelling and pain).
Uric acid is a waste product from when the body breaks down substances called purines. Purines are naturally-occurring and are found both in our diets and bodies.
Low levels of uric acid is dissolved in the blood and processed by the kidneys – it then leaves the body through the urin. High levels of uric acid (hyperuricemia) for a prolonged time will cause the acid to crystallize and cause Gout.
Increased levels of uric acid comes from diet, genetic factors or inability of the kidneys to process it. About 10% of the Gout cases comes from overproduction of uric acid and about 90% of the cases comes from inability of the kidney to process it.
Gout was historically known as “the disease of kings” or “rich man’s disease.”
Signs and symptoms
Gout is characterized by pain, swelling and redness (inflammation).
Without treatment, an acute attack of Gout usually resolves in five to seven days, however, 60% of people have a second attack within one year. Acute Gout may develop into chronic Gout with destruction of joint surfaces and joint deformity.
Gout has become more common in recent decades, affecting about 1-2% of the American population at some point in their lives. The increase is believed to be due changes in diet and longer life expectancy.
The level of uric acid can be measured, but some people with Gout have a relatively low levels. The best way to diagnose Gout is to extract fluid from the joint and look for the crystals in the microscope.
Health problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol may lead to increased uric acid – and the development of Gout. Other causes of Gout include kidney disease, exposure to lead, severe illness or stress, and extreme physical exertion.
Once the acute attack is gone, levels of uric acid is usually lowered via lifestyle changes. Drugs like allopurinol or probenecid provides long-term prevention for individuals with reoccurring attacks of Gout.
Foods and drinks with high levels of Purine and thus increasing the risk of Gout include:
- Red meat
- Organ meat (liver, heart etc)
- Sugar-sweetened foods
To summarize, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle no matter the level of uric acid. Do not smoke, follow a well-balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise.