Gout is a type of arthritis that causes the inflammation of the joints. Gout mostly affects the joints of the lower body (toes, heels, ankles, knees), but it can also affect other joints (elbows, spine, shoulders and hand wrists). The disease can sometimes cause damage to skin and soft tissue (tendons and muscles), which have decreased flexibility and integrity.
The most common gout symptoms are discomfort, sourness, swelling and intense pain of the affected area. In most patients with the disease, the first gout symptoms appear at the level of the big toe. The skin around the affected regions turns yellow, appears to be stretched and bruised. People who suffer from gout usually experience pain attacks that may last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours and in some cases, even days. In most cases, the pain attacks seem to amplify at night and many people with gout have trouble sleeping. The regions affected by gout become very sensitive and people with the disease can’t tolerate clothing or shoes.
Gout is mainly caused by the accumulation of uric acid (waste product that is collected and eliminated by the kidneys through urine) inside the body. The surplus of uric acid tends to crystallize and deposit in different parts of the body. One of the most disturbing gout symptoms is the inflammation of soft tissue. Sometimes, the crystallized uric acid forms tophi, painful lumps under the skin. Sometimes, tophi may even tare up the skin, causing infections.
Gout symptoms can be ameliorated by diet and lifestyle. Keeping a proper diet is a good way of handling the effects of the disease. In some cases, good diets are even more effective in overcoming gout than the actual treatment prescribed for the disease. The treatment of gout usually deals only with local inflammation and pain, and its effects are temporary. Pain episodes and inflammation are known to reoccur even under intense medication. A good diet, however, eases gout symptoms and also minimizes their chances of reappearing. Gout diets consist mainly of low-purine foods that don’t add to the amount of uric acid in the body. By drinking plenty of water you help the kidneys excrete the surplus of uric acid (around two liters of water each day are required).
Gout symptoms also tend to amplify in the case of people who are overweight. Obesity is known to facilitate the accumulation of uric acid inside the body. Also, overweight people that suffer from gout are more exposed to injuries of the joints. It is very important to try losing the extra weight when suffering from gout.
Smoking and the consumption of alcohol are considered to be factors that support and aggravate gout symptoms. Alcohol interferes with the normal renal activity, causing the kidneys to release less uric acid through urine, while smoking seriously damages arteries, affects blood circulation and slows down the process of healing. When suffering from gout, it is very important to reduce these factors of risk, as they only cause damage to the body.