Gout: Dr. Rosemary Leonard advises on symptoms and treatment
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Arthritis can be broken down into several inflammatory conditions that affect different joints in the body. When pain is inflicted on the big toe this tends to be an indication of gout, caused by a build-up of sharp crystals. Often, patients who suffer these attacks report eating one of three foods in the days leading up to their flare-up.
Commonly caused by hyperuricemia, gout tends to affect individuals who have higher-than-average levels of uric acid in the body.
However, only patients who suffer a build-up of sharp crystals in the joints – known as gout – require treatment for hyperaemia.
There are several factors that make it more likely that you will develop hyperuricemia, two major factors being the male gender and obesity.
Having certain health conditions also causes unhealthy uric acid increases, but managing this lowers the risk of gout complications.
Lifestyle is a third major contributor to the condition, particularly diet.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, foods high in fructose and purine are closely linked to gout attacks.
The National Centre for Biotechnology Information says: “Some studies suggest certain foods are linked to gout attacks.
“Gout attacks are apparently more common in people who have eaten a lot of meat, fish or seafood a few days before. That matches many people’s experiences.
“People who are clinically diagnosed with gout are often told to adhere to a strict-low burin diet, but there is little evidence supporting the effectiveness of these rules.
“[…] Purine-rich plant-based foods such as peas, beans, lentils, spinach, mushrooms, oats, cauliflower and broccoli were found to have little to no effect on the risk of a gout attack,” adds the National Centre for Biotechnology Information.
“Overall, there hasn’t been much food quality research into the link between certain foods and gout attacks.”
The body absorbs purines differently from different foods, so not all purine-rich foods can be considered a risk factor for gout.
Once purine is ingested, uric acid – which is mostly made inside the body – is released to help break the molecule down.
The crystals that make up uric acid tend to accumulate in the joints if there are not enough fluids in the surrounding tissue.
How common is gout?
According to the NHS, it is estimated that between one and two in every 100 people in the UK are affected by gout.
For a great number of these patients, symptoms are concentrated in the bunions joint of the big toe.
The NHS states that any joint can come under attack, but it tends to be those located at the ends of the limbs that are affected first, like the toes, ankles, knees and fingers.
Aside from causing pain, the joint may feel hot and tender to the touch.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are usually recommended to ease symptoms, but lifestyle changes can go a long way to prevent future attacks.
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