Gout: Doctors can Help

Don't try to grin and bear it

The first thing to know about gout is that it's treatable. Don't be misguided and try to grin and bear it. If you should experience the sudden, intense pain of gout, please call your doctor. If you don't treat gout, not only are you in for more lingering and severe pain, but you might end up sustaining joint damage. If you have a joint that feels hot to the touch and is very red, it's important to seek medical assistance right away. Such symptoms are signs that you might have an infection.

Gout has been around a very long time, but today there are screening and diagnostic tests available to help your doctor make a definitive diagnosis of gout. For example, your doctor might decide to draw off some fluid with the help of a needle from around the inflamed joint. If gout is the cause of your inflammation, the fluid, when seen under a microscope, will show urate acid crystals. These are sharp, needle-like crystals that form around the joints when there is excess uric acid in the blood. These crystals are the usual cause of the disease known as gout.

Your doctor may order a blood test to determine your levels of uric acid. The results of such tests aren't definitive. Some people have high uric acid levels (hyperuricemia) and never show signs of gout, and others have the disease even though their uric acid levels are within normal range.

High uric acid levels can be caused by obesity, excess alcohol consumption, and diets high in purines (the metabolism of which causes uric acid to form),. They are also caused by certain medical conditions, such as psoriasis, leukemia, and lymphoma, and some medications, such as low dose aspirin and diuretics used to treat hypertension.

Try some lifestyle changes

Changes in lifestyle, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol, switching medication, and avoiding foods high in purines such as herring, organ meats, anchovies, mushrooms, and asparagus, can go a long way toward avoiding a future bout with gout. High uric acid levels are also associated with increased risk for heart disease, so this is another reason you'll want to be careful to find ways to lower your them. There are also some medications that can lower uric acid levels. As your doctor monitors your condition, he might find that, despite your best efforts at lifestyle changes, uric acid levels remain high. Your doctor will then want to rule out conditions that raise uric acid levels.