The Aspirin Debate

Gout Pain

Gout, a disease of the joints caused by the excessive buildup of uric acid in the bloodstream, is associated with symptoms such as severe or excruciating pain, burning, inflammation, stiffness, redness, and warmth in the affected areas. Short-term pain relief from gout is often necessary, in addition to longer-term medical interventions aimed at treating the disease.

Aspirin and Gout

Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) has long been people's first choice when it comes to immediate pain relief and fever reduction, and is also commonly used as an anti-inflammatory medication. When it comes to taking aspirin to relieve the aches of gout, however, a fierce debate has ensued. The rally, "don't use aspirin for gout" has long been touted by doctors and scientists due to the claim that low-dosage aspirin actually raises levels of uric acid. Recent studies, however, indicate that aspirin in fact does not increase serum urate levels in the body.

The Aspirin Debate

In the short term, all agree that even high dosages of aspirin effectively provide relief from pains associated with gout. It is the use of low-dosage aspirin over a longer period of time that is at the heart of the debate. Although doctors recommend low-dose aspirin for diseases such as stroke or heart disease, they do not advocate aspirin in the treatment of gout disease. Studies were thought to have 'proven' that even small doses of aspirin raise uric acid levels, thus it was believed that aspirin could actually amplify gout symptoms in the long term. Doctors therefore advocated that gout patients seek alternative forms of symptom relief.

A large study in the Department of Rheumatology and Medicine in San Antonio, however, studied subjects with gouty arthritis to determine if daily low doses of coated aspirin taken in conjunction with probenecid affected serum urate levels or urinary urate excretion. These results were contrasted to those of subjects who received probenecid alone, and those who were administered aspirin six hours after taking probenecid. The study concluded that aspirin has no significant effect upon measured serum urate levels or urinary urate excretion.

Alternative Gout Pain Relief

Given the ongoing debate regarding the elevation of uric acid by aspirin and the questionable effectiveness of aspirin in the treatment of gout, most doctors recommend the use of other pain relief medications or natural pain relief substitutes.

Amongst the many herbal medicines currently claimed to effectively ease the discomforts of gout include Devil's Claw and celery seed.

Eating a healthy diet low in purines is also one of the keys to reducing uric acid levels in the body and to avoiding a repeated attack of gout disease. One fruit particularly recommended is the cherry, which also nicely compliments medical interventions. Health care professionals also advise gout patients to minimize the consumption of shellfish and red meats, to consume plenty of low-fat dairy products, to drink ample amounts of water and milk, and to minimize or stay away from alcohol consumption. Since obesity also contributes to high levels of uric acid, losing weight is another proactive step individuals can take to prevent and reduce the incidence and pains of gout disease.