Gout is a type of arthritis that predominantly affects the big toes, though it can also affect other joints, such as your hands, wrists or feet. Men are more likely than women to get it and it’s most common in people over the age of 75.
Gout is characterised by sudden flare-ups that cause pain, tenderness and swelling in the affected joint. The symptoms can come and go and often happen at night.
A flare-up causes sudden and intense pain that can last for 2-12 hours. You may feel discomfort in your affected joint for a few days or weeks afterwards. Some people will experience one episode of gout and then go for years without another one, whereas others will experience it on a regular basis. If you do get it regularly, flare-ups can sometimes last longer and affect other joints too.
Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis and happens when there’s too much uric acid in your blood. Uric acid is a chemical produced by your body that usually gets flushed out when you urinate. Too much uric acid in your blood causes crystals to form in your joints, which results in inflammation, pain and tenderness. If these crystals become loose, symptoms can flare up.
If you get a gout flare-up, take an anti-inflammatory painkiller such as ibuprofen to help reduce the swelling and inflammation. Rest the affected joint, raise it and place an ice pack wrapped in a towel on the area for 20 minutes at a time to help reduce the swelling.
If you’ve been prescribed medication for gout you should take it as soon as you can as it can take a few days to have an effect.
Certain lifestyle factors increase your chances of developing gout. If you’re concerned about developing it, or you’ve had it and want to avoid having it again, follow these tips:
Change your diet
The amount of uric acid in your body can be affected by the food and drink you consume. Purine is a chemical found in certain foods that your body converts into uric acid. Try to avoid food and drink that contains a lot of purine, such as:
A healthy diet, in general, will also help reduce your chances of developing gout. Make sure your diet includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fibre, and is low in saturated fats.
Drink plenty of water and avoid sugary drinks
Studies show that drinking sugary drinks increase your chances of developing gout. So, swap sweet drinks for water or other sugar-free drinks.
It’s also important to stay hydrated to help flush out uric acid from your body. Adults should drink between six to eight glasses of fluids a day — this can include water, low-fat milk, tea or coffee.
If you’ve had several flare-ups of gout, you can get medication to help prevent it from coming back. The medication will either reduce the amount of uric acid that your body produces or increase the amount that gets flushed out when you urinate.
Being overweight can increase your chances of developing gout, so it’s important to take regular exercise and manage your weight. Studies show that people who exercise regularly are less likely to develop gout.
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