Gout is among the most painful forms of arthritis. It is nine times more common in men than in women and affects as many as 3 million people in the United States. Gout is one of the most well known medical conditions throughout history, with notable figures such as Benjamin Franklin suffering from it. Gout can bring about severe pain in the joints, with many attacks occurring at night and with the person's big toe a frequent target.
When urate crystals gather in a specific joint they cause gout. These crystals form when uric acid builds up in a person's bloodstream. Uric acid is produced in the human body when substances known as purines, which are found in the body and in many types of foods, are broken down. In most cases uric acid will dissolve into the blood and then pass through the kidneys, being expelled from the body through urination. However, in cases of gout, the buildup is too great for the body to handle and the uric acid congregates in the joints--often the big toe, ankles and elbow--and forms sharp, piercing needle-like crystals that make the area red, inflamed and swollen.
Certain types of foods are higher in purine content than others, meaning that when a person who suffers from gout consumes them, they will experience a buildup of uric acid and likely suffer a gout attack. Red meat, poultry, pork, liver and many organs of animals that are cooked and eaten such as kidneys, hearts and tongues are high in purines. Shellfish, mussels, herring, sardines, shrimp, scallops and other types of seafood should be avoided if you have been diagnosed with gout. Vegetables such as peas, spinach and asparagus are rich in purines as are lentils, beans and mushrooms. Alcohol also adds to uric acid levels and causes gout frequently.
There are a number of medications that will have a tendency to increase uric acid levels. Aspirin and the vitamin called niacin have this ability. Diuretics that are used to reduce the levels of water and salt in a person also elevate uric acid amounts in the blood. Chemotherapy drugs, usually those that are utilized in cancer patients, will do this as well as medications that affect the immune system.
Among the causes of gout are a variety of illnesses and medical conditions. The rapid loss of weight will cause gout in some instances and so will obesity. Those who suffer from kidney disease and high blood pressure can have attacks of gout. Certain kinds of anemia, tumors and psoriasis have been known to make uric acid in the body increase with gout as a result. Lead poisoning and hypothyroidism are also causes of gout, and there are rare genetic conditions that make people predisposed to gout.
Gout has been known to medical science for centuries. One of the misconceptions about the condition was that it was an illness confined only to the rich and well off. This arose from the fact that many of the monarchs and well-to-do of Europe were famous victims of gout. However, because they had the means to live well, they consumed diets heavy in many of the foods that cause gout to occur, leading to obesity and a susceptibility to the effects of gout.
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