Gout is a painful condition where the body cannot eliminate uric acid from the bloodstream. The uric acid turns into a crystallized form and digs into the tissue.
Gout is frequently misdiagnosed.
Gout is sometimes misidentified as arthritis or other pain-causing ailments. The range of locations that can be affected by gout make it difficult to identify without a blood test for high uric acid levels. If not detected early, then the body can be devastated internally by other gout symptoms.
What are the symptoms of gout?
Considering how serious this condition is, it pays to know how to spot it. There are many symptoms of gout, and some are not always obvious. Check out the top 11 signs of gout in the following slides to learn more.
11. Joint Pain
Pain caused by gout in the joints is called gouty arthritis. Uric acid crystals will stiffen the joints—frequently in the feet and toes—and make normal movement extremely painful. Gout at the joint of the big toe is responsible for around half of the flare-ups that lead people to seek gout treatment.
Although gout is most common in the feet, it can also easily form in other body parts, including:
10. Inflammation and Swelling
Along with pain, a telltale sign of gout is inflammation or swelling. In some cases, the swelling can be so intense that it makes putting on socks or shoes impossible. Flare-ups are usually caused by a slight injury or infection that causes the needle-like uric acid crystals to shift. The body responds by swelling.
9. Sleep Apnea
Gout attacks are much more common at night, as a lower body temperature contracts tissues and pushes the uric acid crystals closer to nerves and muscle. This is why it’s likely that the first time someone realizes they have gout is when they experience sudden pain in the middle of the night.
Pain during sleeping hours
A gout sufferer will likely be woken up to attacks that make sleep impossible to attain. A lack of sleep can make gout worse and increase the risk of pain attacks. Sleep is also an important time because this is when the body removes uric acid from the blood. This removal process may be part of the reason why gout attacks become worse at night.
8. Joint Damage
The pain from a gout attack may subside over time, but it doesn’t appear without reason. The needle-like crystals that tear into the soft tissue have the ability to alter the structure of the joint. Most gout cases can be managed to the point that the attacks are halted or kept from causing too much destruction.
Joint problems can occur from gout.
A normal case of gout will not cause permanent damage if successfully treated. Chronic gout, however, may cause deformities in joints if the disease is left untreated. This can also happen to patients that are not able to bring their uric acid levels down through medical treatment.
Constant cartilage swelling in joint tissue will lead to symptoms such as:
- Bone erosion
- Bone deformity
Surgery may be necessary to bring the joints back to their original position. Surgery is more common for older patients that have suffered from gout for a long time. But, younger patients should be aware of these symptoms, as well as other body abnormalities, as we’ll cover in the next slide.
Before uric acid is crystallized, it freely floats in the bloodstream as a normal part of our biology. Uric acid is found in everybody, as it is a necessary part of digestion. It is filtered out of the bloodstream by the kidneys and then is expelled from the body as urine.
What about high uric acid levels?
When there is such a high level of uric acid in the blood that the kidneys can’t keep up, then the condition is known as hyperuricemia. If it isn’t eliminated, then uric acid deposits itself in many locations throughout the body. Gout is just one of the many ways that uric acid becomes trapped in delicate organs, and it can also result in bone decay or kidney damage.
Healthy diet & exercise help.
Luckily, uric acid levels can be brought down with a healthy diet and exercise. A healthy lifestyle will keep gout attacks to a minimum. On the other hand, some people have a genetic condition that makes it difficult for their body to process uric acid. This can be due to several factors, most of which are related to kidney function.
Gout attacks are manageable through treatment, but only a reduction of uric acid levels in the blood will fully ensure that new crystals are no longer forming in the body. For more information on other types of unhealthy effects of gout, continue to the next slide.
A tophus is a mass of crystals formed from uric acid that appears as large lumps under the skin. These lumps tend to grow years after gout first becomes active in the victim.
Where does tophus develop?
These bumps can appear on various parts of the body, including:
- Any joint that has had a history of gout
While the bumps do not cause immediate pain, they may lead to bone erosion or limit the mobility of certain joints.
Who is at high risk of tophus?
Older people are more likely to get these masses, which may poke out of the skin as one or more hard nodules. The nodules are hard and chalk-like in substance.
How do you prevent tophus?
Scientists are still learning about why these lumps form, as well as what can be done to prevent them. In serious cases, they should be removed so they do not cause joint damage or limit the mobility of the patient. They may not be dangerous on their own, but they can signify heart disease or a return of gout.
The surgical process to remove these nodules always comes with a risk. Tophi are attached to deep parts of the body, and this is why they can affect bone health if left untreated, which brings us to another substance type that can affect gout…
5. Kidney Stones
Urate crystals that form in the urinary tract are called kidney stones. These urate crystals are made of the same material as gout but tend to be large enough to cause bleeding or serious damage to the kidneys. Leaving gout untreated invites this complication. Similarly, treating gout is also a great way to prevent kidney stones.
How do you get rid of kidney stones?
People who have gout are at a much larger risk for kidney stone. Kidney stones are more difficult to treat through medicine, due to their hefty size and crystalline shape. The only ways to get rid of kidney stones are through surgery or by passing them through the urinary tract, which can be incredibly painful. Passing kidney stones, however, is sometimes necessary to avoid the risk and expense of surgery.
How can you prevent kidney stones?
A good way to prevent kidney stones is by keeping uric acid levels low. Someone with gout can reduce the risk of kidney stones by keeping up with the treatment plan their doctor provides. Living a life filled with daily exercise is another great way to battle symptoms of gout.
4. Sedentary Lifestyle
One of the best ways to treat gout is by getting more exercise. Exercise reduces fat and helps the body purify itself from uric acid. Extreme joint pain can make movement difficult for those already suffering from the disease. Unfortunately, this creates a cycle that prevents the patient from exercising, which can lead to the gout getting worse.
Does gout affect mental health, too?
It’s also common for people to experience frustration or depression with their disease, since it is so painful and difficult to manage. A gout sufferer can always change their diet or take their medication, but the pain from gout can make exercise an especially difficult treatment.
How much exercise is necessary?
Exercise is necessary to bring uric acid levels down and treat flare-ups. A couple of hours a week of moderate exercise is enough to reduce the risk of gout, diabetes, heart disease, and other common conditions.
Apart from exercising frequently, a person with gout will have to make other lifestyle changes. Reducing alcohol intake is one example, which we will cover in the next slide.
3. Bad Reaction to Alcohol
Drinking alcohol can trigger a flare-up for people with gout. This is because alcohol dehydrates the body and makes it more difficult to remove uric acid from the blood. The kidneys need a high amount of water to do their job, and alcohol is extremely effective at reducing water levels in the body.
Dehydration can trigger gout.
Additionally, a dehydrated body will absorb fluid from the tissues that house uric acid crystals, and will cause them to become more concentrated. An increased concentration of uric acid crystals can trigger a gout attack and even form new crystals.
A diet change may be necessary.
Gout patients that are working to change their diet should also include a lack of alcohol as one of their goals. Beer is an especially dangerous alcoholic drink for gout patients because it contains a type of yeast that is high in purines. Many foods contain purines, but only some are bad for gout victims. The purines from brewer’s yeast is especially unhealthy for gout.
Alcohol also negatively impacts a host of biological processes. It can:
- Increases the risk of cancer
- Increase the risk of heart disease
These are already serious issues for a gout patient. Wine may not be as bad for gout as beer or liquor, so gout victims should research which kinds of alcohol is more safe than others to enjoy.
For more information on how to reduce blood pressure, continue to the next slide.
2. High Blood Pressure
Gout patients should check with their doctors to asses their risk for high blood pressure (HBP). HBP can lead to a host of dangerous conditions, such as:
- Heart attacks
People with gout will almost always suffer from HBP if left untreated.
When HBP leads to pain
When someone with gout has high blood pressure then they are more likely to have pain attacks. Higher blood pressure leads to increased force on the soft tissues. It can also increase swelling in joints and make it harder for the body to get rid of uric acid crystals.
Some gout medication may also make HBP worse, which means that patients should also be prepared to treat their blood pressure. The mental stress from gout can also make HBP worse, so it’s important that gout sufferers get treated before the condition worsens to the point that gout attacks become too painful to manage, or even develop into heart disease, as we’ll mention in our next slide.
1. Heart Disease
The uric acid in the blood doesn’t stop its attack at the joints and kidneys; there is a myriad of heart diseases that go along with gout. It isn’t fully understood why gout causes heart disease, but research shows that people who have had gout are twice as likely to develop a fatal heart condition.
How does gout affect the heart?
All of the symptoms that go along with gout are dangerous to cardiovascular health. A diet filled with fats and alcohol narrows the blood vessels and forces the heart to work harder.
Obesity, which is also linked to gout, increases the power necessary for the heart to pump blood around the body and can lead to heart failure. As a result, constant inflammation may stress the heart to the point that it is damaged.
Gout formation in the heart
When gout crystals form in the heart, then it can swell up just like an affected joint, and an inflamed heart is not good for short-term or long-term health. For this reason, gout should be considered as a serious, sometimes deadly disease. Many patients think of gout as merely uncomfortable or temporary, but it’s important to comprehend how gout affects all internal organs.
What are the chances of developing gout?
As long as a person keeps a healthy diet and active lifestyle, their chances of developing gout are minuscule. There are some hereditary factors that increase the chances for gout, but it is rare for an active person to get gout unless they have a specific kidney dysfunction.
It is, however, critical to be aware of the signs of gout. Gout attacks should always be discussed with a doctor regardless of infrequency. There are many medications and treatments available that can help bring uric acid levels down in the body. Gout can easily be managed if its caught early and treated effectively.
A healthy, active lifestyle is key to prevention.
Gout will continue to affect more people as society continues to focus on sedentary occupations and habits. That is why it is critical to include exercise and a healthy diet in everyday life.
Gout has been around for thousands of years, so it is unlikely that a miracle cure will appear anytime soon. Patient education and new treatment techniques for doctors will hopefully reduce the likelihood of people developing the disease.