Tuesday, December 22, 2015
It seems that there are too many of us that don’t necessarily consider how our life choices can affect our health. We always assume that our bodies are robust and fully equipped to deal with almost anything we put them through.
This situation seems particularly poignant when you look at a disease such as gout, which affects the body in many different ways and has been linked to excessive lifestyles.
Gout is an incredibly painful form of arthritis that is caused by a build-up of uric acid in the body. When your body breaks down substances called purines, it produces uric acid, which is usually dissolved in the blood, passed through the kidneys and expelled from the body through the urine.
However, build-ups can occur when the body increases the levels of uric acid it produces, which in turn means that the kidney is unable to get rid of enough uric acid through urine. Other reasons for the build-up can relate to eating too many foods that are rich in purines, such as liver, dried peas, beans and anchovies.
High levels of uric acid in the blood is called hyperuricemia. While this condition doesn’t always lead to gout, it can do if the uric acid forms into uric acid crystals. These can be deposits of uric acid (tophi) that look like lumps under the skin and uric acid crystal kidney stones.
There are also several myths surrounding gout, such as it’s a disease for the rich and obese – people of all sizes and income can get gout. Even more, it is said that it’s a male only disease – there are cases in both men and women, but women are at lower risk up to the menopause.
However, it’s worth knowing that some of the key factors that put you at higher danger of developing gout are: if there’s a family history of the disease, if you’re overweight, drink a lot of alcohol or eat a lot of purine rich foods.
There are many ongoing medical studies based on the causes and treatment of gout, such as the role that an excessive lifestyle can have on triggering the symptoms of gout.
The term 'excessive lifestyle' can mean a number of things, but in the case of gout, it tends to relate to rich foods, excessive alcohol consumption and little or no exercise. Naturally, your body requires a well-balanced diet and exercise to remain fit and healthy, so overindulging regularly in purine rich foods and drinks can have a very detrimental effect further down the line.
It’s proven that individuals who drink alcohol and eat meat and fish in excess are more susceptible to developing gout, as these cause more uric acid to develop in the blood. However, meat and fish are essential dietary requirements to keep the body functioning, so they shouldn’t be cut out entirely. Monitoring your meals and ensuring you have a healthy level of meat and fish intake will help you keep urine levels down. It’s also worth noting that this isn’t just limited to meats and fish – interestingly, tomatoes have been linked to gout as they increase serum urate levels in the bloodstream too.
With a disease like gout, it’s important to know the signs and when to seek professional medical help. The first symptoms of gout often occur with severe pain, redness and swelling in the big toe. However, it can affect other areas of the body, such as insteps, ankles, heels, knees, wrists, fingers and elbows.
These episodes are usually isolated to one area; they’ll flare up quickly, but subside relatively fast too. If you have an episode like that described above, it’s definitely time to speak to your GP. They will thoroughly examine the area, discuss your family background and possibly take a fluid sample from the inflamed joint to confirm if it is uric acid. Other signs could be if you have high levels of uric acid in your blood, called hyperuricemia.
Seeking professional medical advice rather than self-diagnosing is crucial to the treatment and management of gout. While the Internet is full of information, each case has individual circumstances, and gout can also trigger other severe heart conditions, which should always be treated professionally. Visiting your GP will mean not only faster diagnosis but also the correct treatment, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), corticosteroids and colchicine.
If you have been diagnosed with gout and need further guidance and treatment, please take a look here at how our dedicated GP can help you deal with this condition.