Gouty Arthritis and Your Big Toe
Gout and its causes
Gout is a type of arthritis caused by the accumulation of uric acid in the joints. Uric acid forms when purines, natural substances found in the body's cells and in most foods, have broken down completely. Uric acid can be beneficial in protecting damage to the body's blood vessels, but if there is too much of it in the body, then it becomes harmful. The buildup of uric acid can be the result of different factors. If the body has digested certain foods high in purines, then excessive uric acid will accumulate in the body. Foods that are rich in purines and can lead to gout are sardines, herring, mackerel, sweetbread, gravy, liver, beef, kidneys, and brains. Problems with the body's kidneys can also lead to the buildup of uric acid. Kidneys are responsible for keeping uric acid levels balanced by filtering it from the body's blood, but if there is a defect within the kidneys, then elevated concentrations of uric acid will accrue in the body.
Symptoms of Gout
The buildup of uric acid in the blood stream leads to the uric acid forming into sharp crystals that eventually settle in the cartilage of joints, tendons and the surrounding tissues. This leads to an inflammatory reaction of these body parts and tissues. This reaction is felt as sharp, sudden pain accompanied by swelling, tenderness, redness and stiffness in the affected joints. These severe reactions intensify if the area is moved or even if it is slightly touched. Gout can develop in someone as quickly as one day. It usually only occurs at night in one joint at a time. Approximately 75 percent of first attacks usually affect the big toe. Gout may also affect the ankle and knee joints. If it goes untreated, then gout can damage the joints and lead to a disability.
Who Gets Gout
Gout is seen more in men between the ages of 40 and 50 than in anyone else. In the United States, gout is twice as more prevalent in African-American men than it is in Caucasian men. In women the chances of being affected by gout increase after menopause.
Other Causes and Risk Factors of Gout
Anything that interferes in the removal of uric acid in the body can possibly lead to gout. This includes regularly drinking alcohol, being exposed to lead in the environment, and certain medications such as aspirin and diuretics. People who have diabetes, a kidney disease, sickle cell anemia, or a family history of gout have an increased risk of developing gout. People who are obese also have an increased risk of being affected by the disease.
Prevention of Gout
Leading a healthy lifestyle helps prevent gout. This includes limiting the intake of alcohol, drinking lots of water, exercising regularly, maintaining a well-balanced diet and body weight, and visiting a physician on a regular basis. Avoiding foods that contain a high concentration of purine (e.g. sardines, liver, beef, kidneys, brains, herring, sweetbread, red meat, gravy and mackerel) also helps in preventing gout.