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How to Diagnose and Treat Gout

Gout sends almost 4 million people to the doctor’s office every year.  If you are overweight, drink alcohol, or are under treatment for high blood pressure, you are at risk.  But what is it and how can you prevent it? House Call Doctor explains.

By
Sanaz Majd, MD,
May 1, 2014
Episode #152

Page 1 of 2

Gout is a fairly common medical condition that sends almost 4 million people to the doctor’s office every year.  If you are overweight, drink alcohol, or are under treatment for high blood pressure, you are at risk for gout.  You may have heard of this rather mysterious medical condition - you may have even heard it referred to as "the disease of kings" - but what exactly is it? And how can you be sure that it never happens to you? 

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What Is Gout?

Gout occurs when uric acid crystals develop as a by-product of the metabolism of certain proteins (called “purines”) consumed in our diet. These crystals attack and set up shop in our joints.  That doesn’t sound comfortable, does it?  Well, it certainly isn’t.  Patients with an acute gout attack often describe their experience as:

  • Sudden onset of pain in one joint (it's possible for gout to occur in more than one joint at a time, but that's less likely)
  • The joint is described as “hot” or “burning”
  • Pain is severe in intensity
  • There's redness and swelling at the site
  • The joint may be warm to the touch
  • The attack is not precipitated by any trauma

Basically, gout is a very severe joint pain that seems to just come out of nowhere.  The first episode of gout most often happens in the big toe; future attacks may affect other joints, but are much more common in the lower extremities (feet, ankles, toes, or knees).

Who Gets Gout?

Gout is certainly more common in older patients, but I’ve actually seen very young patients afflicted as well.  With the prevalence of obesity, the frequent consumption of alcohol at social events, and an aging population with more chronic medical conditions, gout is becoming more and more common.

Certain patients have a higher risk of developing gout, including those with:

I've discussed most of these risk factors in more detail in my prior episodes - so make sure to check them out and learn how to take charge of your health.

Now that you know what gout is, the next step is to figure out how to treat it.

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