Gout

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What is gout?

Gout is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis. Attacks usually come on very quickly, and this sudden onset of symptoms is known as an acute attack.

What are the symptoms of gout?

Symptoms of gout include:
  • intense and rapidly developing pain in the affected joint (often your big toe)
  • hot joints that feel very tender to the touch
  • swollen joints
  • shiny and often red skin

What causes gout?

Gout occurs when your body can’t flush out excess uric acid or urate (produced by your body’s own cells and by the breakdown of food). When urate builds up above a certain level, it can form crystals of sodium urate, particularly in your cartilage. Occasionally these crystals escape from the cartilage and trigger sudden painful inflammation in the lining of your joint.

Who gets gout?

Gout affects 1.4 per cent of adults in the UK. It's more common in men, although some women can be affected.

What is the outlook for gout?

With treatment, which may include lifestyle changes, your urate levels should gradually reduce and any crystals should dissolve. Once they’re gone you shouldn’t have any more acute attacks and joint damage.

How is gout diagnosed?

A diagnosis of gout is often based on your symptoms and an examination of your joints, but your doctor may suggest some tests.

What treatments are there for gout?

For acute attacks:

To lower urate levels and reduce the risk of further attacks:

Self-help and daily living for gout

Try the following tips to help ease your symptoms:
  • lose weight if you’re overweight
  • eat less purine-rich foods (e.g. offal, oily fish, yeast extracts)
  • drink plenty of water and less alcohol (3–4 units per day for men, 2–3 units per day for women)
  • increase your intake of vitamin C-rich foods

Research and new developments for gout

A study funded by Arthritis Research UK aims to find out if more people with gout could benefit from treatment including urate-lowering drugs, together with dietary and weight loss advice.

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