Christmas and New Year festivities with tables laden with food cause people an outbreak of gout. For some people, excessive consumption of food ends in the aggravation of the disease. With others, gout symptoms appear for the first time in the post-holiday period.
Gout symptoms are a sudden, sharp pain which often starts at night, a swelling and redness in some of the joints, most often at the base of fingers or in a knee joint.
Gout is one of the oldest diseases mentioned in world history. It has been documented more than 2 500 years before Christ by ancient Egyptians. Gout has been well-researched and understood. However, the myth of its incurability is still alive.
Gout is curable
"Gout is a rare form of arthritis which is curable,” Anna Mihailova, the rheumatologist of the ORTO clinic, stresses. As usual in the post-holiday period, the number of her gout patients has noticeably increased. The doctor emphasizes that even though gout symptoms pass a few days after the outbreak, they should not be treated lightly and a doctor should be consulted. Gout is seldom limited to one outbreak. If the disease is left untreated, it can affect more and more joints and tissues, damage them and become harder to treat.
“The most effective treatment methods should be found for each individual patient. Sometimes, there is no need to use medication – more effective results can be achieved by changing the diet and the amount of daily physical activity,” says the rheumatologist.
What causes the disease?
Historically, gout is considered to be a rich men’s disease. Yet in the last decades, rheumatologists have come to the conclusion that gout is more often caused by disproportionate eating habits, overweight and a sedentary lifestyle, which in its turn has become a modern disease.
Obesity is the most common but by no means the only cause of gout. An outbreak of the disease may be caused also by a specific diet typical of holidays – meat, fish, and animal liver consumption in large quantities as well as excessive use of drinks containing fruit sugar and alcohol abuse (products which contain purine).
Gout appears earlier in men – about the age of 40 to 60 – while in women it appears later – at the age of 65 (after menopause).
Research shows that in families in which one of the blood relatives has gout, there is a risk of inheriting the disease.
What does an increased level of uric acid in the blood sample point to?
Every day a small amount of uric acid – which is a metabolic end product – circles in human blood. Normally, our body is able to pass it out through the kidneys and the urinary tract. If this process does not proceed normally, blood accumulates a high concentration of uric acid. Gout outbreaks are caused by the precipitation of uric acid crystals in the joints. The contact of these sharp formations with the soft and tender tissues of the joints cause pain and inflammation.
Increased uric acid levels in the blood may cause not only gout but also various other diseases, such as cardiovascular and kidney diseases and type 2 diabetes. A high concentration of uric acid promotes more rapid and devastating progress of the disease as well as the emergence of new diseases.
The link between a number of diseases and uric acid was stressed also at the international symposium "Uric acid and cardiovascular diseases” which was held in Bologna, Italy at the beginning of winter and which was attended also by Anna Mihailova. The participants of the symposium were urged to follow the health condition of the patients having the above-mentioned diseases on a broader scale and more closely than usual.
Whom to apply for help?
Gout is unmistakably diagnosed by a rheumatologist. That is why in case of suspicion, it is worth seeking help from this specialist.
“If the first acute gout attack has occurred, the patient will likely do without medication. However, the patient must resolve to change his/her lifestyle. If gout is chronic, then in addition to changing the diet and the amount of physical activity specific medication should be sought – medication which eases pain at disease exacerbation, helps to eliminate uric acid, reduces its formation or prevents gout induced complications, for example, the formation of kidney stones. Gout is a curable disease, that encourages people to change for the good,” summarizes Anna Mihailova.
For gout prevention:
- Drink 2 litres of water daily.
- Have a varied diet.
- Eat to appease hunger, do not eat your fill.
- Introduce daily physical activity as an integral part of your life.
- Some studies show that coffee, vitamin C and cherries reduce the amount of uric acid in the blood. In moderate amounts, use them, too.
At the ORTO clinic, patients are consulted by two rheumatologists:
Anna Mihailova and Helēna Mikažāne