Gout is an extremely painful condition that causes the joints to become red, tender and swollen.
Long known as the “disease of kings” because it tends to affect people who eat a very rich diet, gout is caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals in the blood. Uric acid builds up as a result of a diet that is high in meat, fatty foods and fructose, a type of sugar found in many processed foods.
The first instance of a gout attack usually affects the joint of the big toe. Other joints that are typically affected include the heels, knees, wrists and fingers. Chronic gout is recurring attacks of the condition over a long period of time, with each attack characterized by extreme pain in the affected joints. Over time, gout leads to hard deposits forming in the joints, causing permanent disfigurement and loss of mobility of the affected joint.
Fortunately, there are many effective treatments available that can alleviate the pain of gout and make attacks less likely. If gout is caught early and the sufferer follows their medication plan very strictly, attacks become less likely and the risk of joint damage is reduced. Changing the diet to reduce the amount of fatty foods and foods that contain a natural compound called purine, such as peas, beans, sardines, liver and kidneys, also helps to reduce the impact of gout.
As ever, prevention is better than a cure. To reduce your risk of developing gout, be sure to eat a balanced diet that does not include very large amounts of red meat or foods containing large amounts of animal fats. Check food labels and avoid foods that contain large amounts of fructose.
Remember that catching gout early will make a big difference to the progression of the disease, so if you are worried that you have had a gout attack, visit your doctor as soon as you can.