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Gout is an inflammatory arthritis disease that is caused by the deposition of uric acid crystals in body tissues. This leads to a rapid onset of painful, red, hot swollen joints, especially in the big toe of the foot. This condition usually occurs after many years of sustained hyperuricemia. It is characterized by an accumulation of uric acid in the body as well as recurring attacks of joint inflammations or arthritis. Chronic gout not only leads to arthritis, but also leads to decreased kidney functions, formation of hard lumps of uric acid in and around the joints, and kidney stones. It is claimed that sufferers of this condition either have a problem with releasing uric acids from their body or produce too much of it. Gout may be associated with other medical conditions or may occur alone.

The prevalence rate of gout has experienced an immense growth in the past ten years. A recent report by the national Health and Nutrition Examination Survey indicate that over 8.3 million Americans suffer from this condition. Prevalence of hyperuricemia or increased uric acid levels also increased, affecting over 43.3 million adult Americans (Wallace 89). Moreover, this disease commonly affects men, and can manifest itself anytime from 30 years. In fact, men are nine times more likely to develop this condition than women. Although women also suffer from this disease, it has been established that women are a slightly lower risk. The main risk factors that have been associated with the development of this condition are aging and obesity. It is asserted that increased frequencies in hypertension and obesity may be linked with this surge.

Symptoms of Gout

The symptoms of this condition are almost unmistakable. Usually, an individual will go to bed felling fine, but be awakened by an intense pain in the big toe. The reason for the onset of this condition at night is due to the low body temperatures. Although the swelling of the joints of the big toe account for almost half of the reported cases, other joints, such as the fingers, heels, wrists, and knees, may also be affected. Initially, one feels like a bucket of ice-cold water has been poured on the joint, but shortly afterwards, there is an excruciating sensation of tearing and stretching, along with tightness and pressure (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 100). The affected area feels tender, hot, and turns dusty red. The affected spot also becomes extremely sensitive to touch. After some time, the swelling spreads over the entire foot, thus making it impossible to wear a shoe.

Other symptoms that may be felt along with the swollen joint include high fever and fatigue. The symptoms of chronic gout include importunate painful joints with huge deposits in the cartilage, membranes between tendons, bones, and soft tissues. Additionally, the skin over the affected area develops sore spots and releases some white pus. Eventually, the joints become stiff, therefore limiting the motion of the affected joint.

Diagnosis of Gout

The diagnosis of this condition is based on the symptoms, x-rays and blood teats. High levels of uric acids and the presence of urate crystals in joint fluids indicate the presence of the condition. Moreover, x-rays usually show some damages to the bones and cartilages in chronic gout. An attack usually subdues on its own within three to ten days, but immediate treatment can end it faster. After an acute gouty arthritis or acute gout, almost half of the victims will experience another attack within a year. It is imperative to understand such attacks tend to last longer, strike more often and affect more joints (Wallace 102).

Causes of Gout

The chief cause of gout is hyperuricemia or too much uric acid crystals that build up in body tissues. Uric acids are formed in the body when protein and other cells have been broken down and released into the bloodstream. This uric acid is absorbed by the blood and ends up being flushed out of the body by the kidney. When there is excess uric acid in the blood, or when the kidney fails to flush out the uric acid from the body quickly enough, then gout develops. The consumption of foods rich in chemicals called purines such as red meats, oily fish, and internal organs increase the risk for gout. Additionally, gout is cause by excessive and/or frequent consumption of beverages such as coffee, tea, cocoa and alcohol because these drinks make the body to loose extra water.

It has been established that certain medications such as acetylsalicylic and diuretics can obstruct the kidney from clearing out uric acid (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 56). Continuous use of such medication can cause gut. Other causes of gout include sudden weight loss gain or loss, changes in diet, dehydration, IV contrast dyes, and chemotherapy.

Treating Gout  

Gout patients should not despair because there are several treatment options for this condition. It has been established that medication, lifestyle measures and vitamin C supplements can help prevent gout attacks.  The general measures or first-aid that a person should follow to help reduce the swelling is to raise the affected limb by reclining on a sofa and placing the leg on a cushion. Wrap an ice pack in a towel and hold it on the inflamed joint to ease the pain. Apply the ice pack for about 20 minutes, and continue this as often as required. Note that the temperature of the affected joint must return to normal before applying again.  It is recommended that the sufferer should take some anti-inflammatory painkillers because they ease most attacks within twelve to twenty four hours. There are several brands and types of anti-inflammatory painkillers such as naproxen, indometacin, and declofenac (Konshin 56). An alternative medication that eases gout attack is Colchicines, which is used by individuals that might have side-effects or complications with anti-inflammatory painkillers. Injections and steroids can also ease the inflammation and pain that is caused by gout attacks.

Change in lifestyle can help prevent this condition. For example, overweight people should try to lose some weight and vice versa. This helps the individual to reduce the uric acid level. However, victims should not starve or use diets that might increase their urate levels. Heavy drinkers should cut down the amount of alcohol they consume by keeping to the recommended of alcohol. Additionally, drinkers should avoid binge drinking. Drinking of substances with a lot of sugar, especially drinks that contain fructose should be avoided. When taking any medication, it is advisable to check whether they contain substances or chemicals that cause gout. Drink a lot of water to avoid dehydration unless there is a medical condition that requires otherwise. Since prevention is better than cure, individuals should have their blood pressure checked at least once every year. It has also been revealed that vitamin C intake reduces the risks of contacting or developing gout.

Conclusion

The discourse above has revealed that gout can attack anyone therefore prevention is a vital part of preventing it. It is crucial to control blood pressure, diet, and weight to stay away from gout attacks. Nonetheless, sufferers should not despair because there are several treatment options available. When diagnosed and treated early, it is possible to prevent this condition thus prevent joint damages and live a normal and fulfilling life. 

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