Sudden, painful swelling at the base of the big toe is often the first warning sign of gout. It can affect other joints as well. Without treatment, gout can lead to severe joint damage and make it hard for you to move. The good news is, most types of gout are treatable, especially if caught early. Gout is a form of arthritis - in fact, the 2nd most common form after osteoarthritis. And it’s a growing problem. Experts suspect that climbing rates of obesity and high blood pressure are partly to blame for the rise in gout. Gout has also been linked to other medical conditions, such as kidney problems, diabetes, and heart disease.
Gout is caused by tiny needle-like crystals that build up in the joints, leading to sudden inflammation and intense pain. The crystals are made of uric acid, a substance that normally dissolves in the blood and passes out of the body in urine. But in people with gout, high blood levels of uric acid allow crystals to form in the joints and sometimes in the kidneys, where they create kidney stones.
To ease or prevent gout attacks:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. Avoid foods that are high in purines (such as liver, dried beans and peas, gravy, and anchovies).
- Avoid high-fructose corn syrup-sweetened beverages and foods.
- Drink plenty of water, and limit alcohol.
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
- If you’re overweight, ask our pharmacist how to lose weight safely. Fast or extreme weight loss can raise uric acid levels.