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Doctors on call: Gout, alcohol and braais


This week’s topic is directly from a reader’s email suggestion last week. Gout is a very common arthritic condition that usually involves severe, acute pain that occurs primarily at night.

This condition can be treated naturally through improved lifestyle factors. We will break down the common question and answers for this painful condition.

What is gout?

Gout is an arthritic condition that is characterised by sudden attacks of burning intense pain and swelling that usually affects the big toe in men.

Gout is possible in females, but not as common. Gout is commonly intermittent and reccurs when proper care is not taken. Chronic gout can harm your joints and ligaments causing significant disability.

Can gout be in other joints?
Gout can occur in your feet, ankles, knees, hands and wrists. The common characteristic is a painful, red, swollen joint.

What severe condition could mimic gout?
The common characteristic of the painful, red, swollen joint can be an infection as well.

Infections can occur in joints away from the initial site of injury or infection. This differential of gout and infection can be the difference of life or death. Ensure you have the proper diagnosis.

What causes gout?
Gout is believed to be caused by too much uric acid in the blood. Elevated uric acid does not always produce gout, but is a finding in individuals who have gout.

This accumulation of uric acid crystals causes irritation and inflammation of the joints and tissues involved.

What are the common triggers for gout?
Foods such as organ meat, anchovies and mushrooms commonly are triggers.

You are at an elevated risk of developing gout if you are overweight and consume alcohol. Gout can also be triggered by side effects of common medications used to treat high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.

Is family history relevant?
Many sources link it with family history, but a stronger link is similar lifestyle factors between family members. Many family members have similar lifestyle-related factors that may trigger gout. It is more common in men than women.

How is gout diagnosed?
It is common to ask about family history and a physical examination of the patient. Lifestyle-related questions are commonly asked especially about alcohol and meat consumption.

The best way to diagnose the condition is a joint sample and blood evaluation to see if uric acid is the cause.

Can kidney stones develop from gout?
Uric acid crystals can collect in the urinary tract system and cause stones. Kidney stones produce severe flank pain that is further characterised by blood in the urine.

How is gout treated?
It is common for your doctor to give steroid injections and pain medications. Unfortunately, gout is not a medical condition and treatments do not fix the underlying condition.

Pain management techniques are needed for immediate function, but lifestyle improvements are needed to correct the condition.

What is the best treatment?
Closely monitoring your lifestyle, stress, diet and exercise will help reduce the risk of developing gout and correct the underlying condition after the diagnosis.

Monitor the foods that trigger attacks and eliminate them. Reducing daily alcohol consumption and braais will go a long way in preventing severe joint pain. Ensure you are drinking enough water to stay well hydrated.

•This column is a reader directed column. Every email is read and responded to.

If you have further questions and topics for future columns, please email:oncallaccess@gmail.com

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