According to the National Arthritis Data Workgroup, an estimated 6 million people in the United States report having experienced gout at some point in their lives. In fact, gout is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis in men over the age of 40. Gout is a painful form of arthritis that is caused by high uric acid levels in your blood (hyperuricemia). Gout attacks occur when excess uric acid forms crystals, causing inflammation in your joints that leads to swelling and pain.
The symptoms of gout are typically acute — and without warning and range from intense joint pain, inflammation, redness, and a lingering discomfort after the acute episode.
You’re more likely to develop gout if you have high levels of uric acid in your body. Factors that increase the uric acid level in your body include lifestyle factors (e.g. excessive alcohol use), medical conditions, certain medications and a family history of gout. If other members of your family have had gout, you’re more likely to develop the disease.
To protect against gout attacks, consider your diet.
- Keep your fluid intake high. Limit how many sweetened beverages you drink, especially those sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.
- Limit or avoid alcohol. Recent evidence suggests that beer may be particularly likely to increase the risk of gout symptoms, especially in men.
- Eat a balanced diet. Your daily diet should emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk products.
- Get your protein from low-fat dairy products. Low-fat dairy products may actually have a protective effect against gout.
The goals of treatment are to end the pain of acute flares, and to prevent future attacks and the formation of tophi and kidney stones. Therapy for acute flares consists of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, etc. Diet and lifestyle (weight loss, avoiding alcohol, reducing dietary purine intake) modifications may help prevent future attacks.