There are a number of underlying factors that can trigger gout, including genetics, medication and diet. Understanding the main contributory factors causing your gout can help you to identify ways of preventing and relieving symptoms such as pain or inflammation. Here at A.Vogel Talks Gout, our muscles & joints expert Earle Logan explores the causes and symptoms of gout, and how the ailment can be alleviated using natural remedies and self-help techniques. If you've got any questions about gout, ask Earle using our Q&A service.
The primary factor causing gout is the amount of uric acid in the body. When levels in the bloodstream are too high, and the body cannot effectively excrete it, crystals may form around the joints.
It is these crystals which cause pain and inflammation during an attack of gout. In some cases, the reason for the increased level of uric acid is a bit of a mystery, in others, there are a number of contributory factors. These include:
Sex and age
Often understanding what is causing your gout helps you to find an effective treatment. For example, some simple diet changes may considerably ease your symptoms.
The symptoms are generally consistent from person to person, making it a fairly simple condition to diagnose. These come on relatively quickly, initially usually only affecting one joint, often the big toe. The most common symptoms include:
Changes to the surrounding skin, including redness, itchiness or flakiness
After a week or so, these symptoms usually subside and the joint feels completely normal. However, the chances that you will have another attack of gout are high, and often the longer you have had the condition, the more frequent the attacks become.
Your diet has a huge effect on this condition. Some foods are rich in a natural substance known as purines. These are broken down into uric acid by our bodies and it is uric acid which gives rise to gouty arthritis. For this reason, controlling the amount of purines you are consuming is the first step towards managing your problem.
Certain foods and drinks are high in purines so are best minimised, or even avoided, particularly during an attack of gout. Alcohol and red meats are the most common triggers for the condition.
Aside from managing your condition through diet, there are certain herbs which may ease your symptoms. Herbal remedies can be split into two groups: those which ease the symptoms, and those which flush toxins out of the body.
There are herbal remedies which have been found to ease the swelling and pain of affected joints. Such herbs include Devil’s Claw which has a strong anti-inflammatory action, but does not result in the side-effects commonly associated with steroids.
Herbal remedies such as Golden Rod or Milk Thistle are remedies which are taken internally to support the function of the liver and kidneys, helping them to flush out toxins, such as uric acid, from the body.
Complications of gout are not common and often not serious. However, they are a signal that your gout could be managed more effectively, and therefore it is worth examining your diet and treatment plan. The most common complications include:
Tophi – these are small white bumps (of crystallised uric acid) around the affected joint or ears
Joint damage – this is usually irreversible, and is caused by urate crystals damaging soft tissue, giving rise to rheumatic or arthritic type pains
Kidney stones – high levels of uric acid may also cause kidney stones, which can be very painful, and may need to be surgically removed.
Often once an initial diagnosis of gout has been made, and an effective treatment plan drawn up, it is not necessary to go back to the doctor. However, if complications develop or you are worried about your condition, it is important to seek medical advice.
Some foods can increase inflammation and discomfort, whilst others can actually reduce it and relieve pain. Discover which foods you should eat fewer of (some might surprise you) and what you should eat more of instead, when suffering from muscle & joint pain.
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While many foods can trigger gout, according to several studies foods rich in vitamin C (like oranges) could be the answer to reducing it. One such study found that the higher the intake of vitamin C, the more protection from gout.