Anyone who has waken-up in the middle of the night with a severely painful gout attack will know that this disease is no fun. Gout is a disease in which tiny crystals (urate crystals) deposit in all the wrong places like joints and soft tissue. The quintessential gout picture is a swollen, big, red toe. However, many joints can be affected by gouty arthritis including the ankle, foot, knee, wrist or hand. Crystals deposit in these places when a person cannot get rid a chemical called uric acid (which is produced by the breakdown of purines, see below) very well and the uric acid accumulates as crystals. Did you ever have one of those crystal gardens as a child? Watching the crystals grow was so exciting. Well, imagine having one of those crystals lodged in a joint. Now, that is some serious pain. Living with this painful disease requires some education; here are some little known facts about Gout.
- 1. All humans are at risk for gout, but gout is rarely seen in men before adolescence.
- 2. All humans are at risk for gout, but gout is rarely seen in women before menopause.
- 3. Estrogen protects women form developing gout prior to menopause when estrogen levels decline.
- 4. Elevated uric acid levels do not necessarily mean that a person has gout.
- 5. Uric acid levels can be normal during a gout attack.
- 6. Many drugs can cause a gout attack including thiazide diuretics (hydrochlorothiazide), low dose aspirin, and some antibiotics.
- 7. Alcohol use increases the risk for gout.
- 8. The most accurate way to diagnose gout is by looking for crystals in the joint fluid.
- 9. Foods that have a high Purine (a basic building block of DNA) content should be avoided, including: shellfish, turkey, salmon, trout, beans, peas, asparagus and spinach.
- 10. Besides causing arthritis (gouty arthritis), gout can damage the kidneys if left unchecked.
Knowing the facts about gout along with a consultation with a rheumatologist can make all the difference in the world when dealing with frequent gout attacks.