Gout is a condition that affects the joints of the body. Small crystals form in and around the joints, and they can cause pain and inflammation. The crystals are made up of uric acid, which is a normal waste product of the body. Extra uric acid normally gets processed in the kidneys and leaves the body via urine. In people with gout, this doesn’t happen quickly enough, and the uric acid builds up.
The pain and symptoms of gout tend to come on quickly, and when this happens, it is often referred to as an “attack” of gout. An attack may occur in just one joint, or a few joints including feet, hands, elbows, knees and ankles. Symptoms you may notice during an attack are:
- Extreme soreness when touching the joint. For example, when in bed ,the light touch of the sheets on the affected joint can be excruciating.
Attacks can last for a week at a time. If gout is not managed well, attacks can become frequent and severe, and you may experience constant pain and permanent joint damage.
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What factors increase my risk of gout and gout attacks?
- Gender and age – the most commonly affected group is men between the ages of 40 – 50. Older people also have a higher risk of gout. Gout in pre-menopausal women is rare.
- Diuretic use. Diuretics are sometimes called fluid tablets, and they are designed to remove excess fluid from the body.
- Having kidney disease
- Family history
- Being overweight
Certain lifestyle factors can not only increase your risk of gout, but may trigger an attack as well. These include:
- Drinking alcohol
- Dehydration (not drinking enough water)
- Crash dieting, fasting and overeating can all contribute to gout
- There is some evidence that certain foods may affect your risk of gout
What can I do to manage my gout?
Firstly, make sure you have an accurate diagnosis. It is best to visit your general practitioner (doctor) first, to get appropriate tests and to come up with a treatment plan.
The best approach to treatment is a team approach.
You are the most important member of your healthcare team. Your team may also involve:
- Your doctor
- Specialists (such as rheumatologists and orthopaedic specialists)
- Allied health professionals (such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists)
- Community organisations that may support you physically or mentally
- Your friends and family who support you
At Arthritis Queensland, we provide a range of services that support you to manage your gout.
- Ring our infoline! Our experienced health educators can give you advice and link you to resources in your area.
- Download our taking control of your gout booklet or information sheets on gout, and the effects of food on gout.