Gout, one of the oldest forms of arthritis, can attack very suddenly and are very painful experiences. It usually starts from the big toe. Left untreated, the pain may spread to the ankle, foot, knee, elbow and hand.
Attacks may also become more frequent and more intense, and slowly affect your kidneys. In the long term, your joint will become damaged, resulting in pain and disability.
If you have gout, your doctor will definitely advise you to watch your diet closely and avoid a high purine diet to reduce a build-up of uric acid in the body. Here’s what you need to know about uric acid:
What is it?
Uric acid is a natural byproduct that happens in the body when various chemical processes take place. This uric acid is disposed of in the kidneys. Gout happens when the kidneys are not functioning well, hence the uric acid accumulates in the joints or skin. Over time, these uric acid form crystals, that cause intense pain when inflamed.
Will I get gout?
Gout tends to run in the family, so you are at higher risk of you have a family history of gout. It tends to be more common in men. Women tend to get gout after menopause. Gout is also more common among those who are:
- Don’t drink enough water
- Have high cholesterol levels, hypertension, diabetes and coronary artery disease.
- Drink a lot of alcohol
- Often go on crash diets
- Excessive intake of high-purine foods
Treatment is categorized into medications and lifestyle changes. Medications include painkillers such as NSAIDs and corticosteroids, uric acid lowering medications such as allopurinol, and colchicines to control inflammation. Long term lifestyle changes include increased water intake (at least 2 litres daily), weight reduction, taking regular meals and avoiding high-purine foods that can trigger an attack.
Food to avoid:
- Kidney, liver, brain or internal organs
- Meat and meat extracts
- Seafood esp. prawns, crabs, mussels
- Alcohol: beer, wine, vodka
Managing a restricted diet
Malaysia being a food paradise, avoiding certain food may seem like a tall order for many gout patients. But everyone’s body is different, so what may trigger an attack in, say, your father, may be harmless for you. You need to identify what triggers your gout attacks. Also, you need not stop eating everything all at once. Just take smaller portions or just have a few bites of your favourite foods and slowly wean yourself off.
What to do in a gout attack
Attacks can last for a few days to a week. See a doctor as soon as you get an attack to get medicine for the joint swelling and pain. Keep the affected foot elevated above your head and place a hot pack or cold pad around it. Never leave gout untreated as it can have other more serious repercussions such as increased attacks, joint damage, kidney disease and development of ‘tophi’, soft tissue swellings filled with uric acid crystals.