Without warning and, for some reason, in the middle of the night, it strikes! An intense pain, most often in the big toe, that is unexpected and excruciatingly painful.
- Sudden, intense pain in a joint – often the big toe
- Swelling, redness, and a feeling of heat in the joint
- Extremely tender to the touch
- Strikes unexpectedly
- May recur without notice at intervals of weeks, months or years
- Most commonly affects men over 40 and postmenopausal women, especially those who are overweight or have high blood pressure or diabetes
Gout is a form of arthritis, brought on by excessively high levels of a compound called uric acid.
Uric acid is a by-product of protein digestion, and the excess is filtered through the kidneys and eliminated in urine. If the body produces too much uric acid or fails to excrete it adequately, crystals of sodium urate may form in the joints and tendons. They may also form in the kidneys, resulting in kidney stones.
Gout is the body’s reaction to these irritating crystalline deposits of sodium urate.
Factors that can trigger an attack of gout include:
- Injury or severe illness
- Surgical procedure
- Alcohol ingestion
- Drugs, including some diuretics
- Excessive consumption of certain foods
- Starvation or severely restricted diet
Treatment is aimed at relieving the excruciating pain, preventing recurrence, and avoiding progression of the disease to the point where it affects the kidneys.
The patient is advised to keep the joint bare to avoid even the slightest pressure.
The mineral sodium phosphate has traditionally been used to reduce build-up of uric acid and relieve symptoms of gout; it is commonly accompanied by sodium sulphate
The herbs celery seed and juniper berry are traditionally used for gout
Diets containing large quantities of meat and other high fat, high protein foods are more likely to contribute to gout – vegetarians rarely get this disorder!
A diet low in fats and moderate in the intake of protein is the first step. Foods high in compounds called purines contribute to the body’s production of uric acid and so should be strictly avoided. These include: organ meats (eg. liver, kidneys, brains, heart, lambs fry), prawns, lobster, oysters, salami, pate, sardines and anchovies.
As with other forms of arthritis, some people also find that certain other foods aggravate their condition. Common culprits include tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, oranges, nuts and wheat.
It is important to drink plenty of water or non-alcoholic fluids (e.g. diluted fresh fruit juices). The uric acid needs to be passed out of the body through the urine, and drinking plenty of fluid helps to dilute the urine and may decrease the risk of kidney stones.
Alcohol should be avoided because it increases levels of uric acid.
Maintain your body weight within its healthy weight range. Obesity is associated with increased uric acid production.
Avoid the foods outlined in Lifestyle Factors.
Consult your health care professional if severe pain in a joint recurs or lasts more than a few days.