Gout is a form of arthritis, usually first characterised in an acute attack in the joint of the big toe.
Many times this attack will occur overnight, with the affected joint becoming red, swollen and very painful with no prior warning
Gout generally affects middle-aged and overweight men, but can affect other people too. It is caused by a build-up of uric acid crystals in the joints. Uric acid is a natural by-product of the metabolism of purines, which are found in many foods such as legumes, peas, lentils, beans, shellfish, sardines, anchovies and food extracts such as vegemite and marmite.
If the body cannot break down the uric acid quickly enough, the excess acid will crystallize. These needle-shaped crystals accumulate in the joints and cause an auto-immune response.
This is why a attack will come on apparently suddenly, although nothing specific has happened to trigger it. The constant slow build up of the crystals in the joint will reach a ‘tipping point’, at which time the body’s reaction is severe.
The joint will swell up, become red, extremely painful and itchy. The pain will often subside within a few days and the symptoms completely disappear. However, the underlying cause has not changed; there is still a build up of such crystals in the joint.
Once the first attack has occurred further attacks can be expected, even after a long period of being symptom-free. Subsequent attacks will usually become more frequent, last longer and start to affect more joints. Once recurrent attacks begin it is usually a sign that it is going to get worse, unless some of the underlying causes are fixed.
Eventually the crystals will start to cause permanent damage to the cartilage, cause increased stiffness and actually prevent the healing that would normally occur between attacks.
It is important to reduce the likelihood of ongoing attacks, as the consequences can be severe and they can be permanent.
There are several different factors that need to be addressed such as limiting foods rich in purines, cutting back on alcohol, losing weight, and eating certain foods that are proven to reduce the prevalence of uric acid accumulation in the system.
It’s important to address these underlying issues before the the condition gets worse. Which is exactly what will happen if no changes are made.