Gout symptoms are characterized by pain in the joints due to abnormal uric acid levels in the body.
Uric acid is a byproduct of purine metabolism. Purines can be found in some drinks and foods, such as: dried beans, liver, peas, wine, and anchovies. The smaller the fish, the higher the purine content. Uric acid is normally found in the blood and circulates to the kidneys and is then excreted via the urine. However, high levels of this acid can be detrimental and is called hyperuricemia.
How to Test for Uric Acid Levels?
When gout symptoms occur, it is better to undergo tests for confirmation. The test is typically done by examining the patient’s blood. Blood is withdrawn from a vein, usually from the brachial vein or the vein located inside of the elbow (See: Elbow pain). The injection site is first disinfected with an antiseptic. A band is then wrapped around the upper arm applying pressure to increase blood flow in the vein making it visible. A syringe is inserted into the vein, and the elastic band is removed. An ample amount of blood is aspirated into the syringe. After the withdrawal of blood, remove the syringe. The blood is then transferred into a vial. Pressure should be applied to the puncture site to stop the bleeding.
For young children and infants, a lancet or a sharp tool is used to puncture the skin making it bleed. The blood is collected onto a slide, small glass tube, or a test strip. A bandage may be used to apply pressure in the punctured area to stop the bleeding.
The blood sample is immediately sent to the laboratory to be examined by a specialist.
What Happens With Gout?
As mentioned earlier, our body normally contains uric acid. However, high levels of uric acid in the bloodstream may interfere with joint function. The liquid substance that serves as a lubricant for joint movement is known as synovial fluid. This lubricant is necessary for joint function and to prevent damage to the bones involved.
Gout symptoms occur when the excess uric acid found in the bloodstream crystallizes within the joint’s synovial fluid. Our immune system identifies the uric acid as a foreign object. The immune system responds to this by attacking the uric acid causing the joints to swell. As the attack continues, the swelling worsens causing pain in the affected joint. The pain caused by this arthritis is unbearable even with the slightest movement.
Gout sometimes is also associated with kidney problems. Since the kidneys are responsible for filtering the blood of excess uric acid, the occurrence of gout may indicate that the kidneys may not be functioning well and having a problem filtering. The kidneys’ function to filter may be altered or damaged by certain medications.
What are Gout Symptoms?
The most common site of gout attack is the big toe. This attack involving the big toe is called podagra. Other commonly affected joints include the fingers, wrist (See: Wrist pain), ankles (See: Ankle pain), elbows, and knees. Acute gout symptoms include a sudden onset of pain involving the affected joint accompanied by swelling, redness, warmth, and marked tenderness. Pain episodes occur usually at night and are very excruciating, crushing, and throbbing. The tenderness is so intense that even a light material like a blanket touching the affected area may cause unbearable pain. Fever may occur during gout attacks. These gout symptoms may subside after several hours or days but may return from time to time. Patients may experience recurrent attacks over the years. In rare cases, gout may progress to a chronic type that is almost the same as rheumatoid arthritis.
In chronic types of gout, tophi or uric acid crystals accumulate in soft tissues around the body. It is commonly found at the fingers, ears, toes and elbows. These tophi can appear in various parts of the body, even in the spinal cord and vocal cords, but rarely in these areas. These gout symptoms may indicate that an overload of uric acid in is the body.
How to Prevent Gout Attacks?
Those gout symptoms mentioned earlier can be prevented in many ways. Although medications are a good choice, alternatives may also be effective for preventing and reducing the intensity and frequency of gout attacks. Since uric acid is a product of purine metabolism, avoiding high purine foods is a great way to prevent gout attacks. Red meat, alcoholic beverages, and certain seafoods such as anchovies are some foods high in purine. If it can’t be avoided, it would be best to look for alternatives.
Gout symptoms may also be prevented by drinking ample amounts of water to help prevent gout. Water aids the kidneys in processing that uric acid to be excreted from the body. It will also help with crystallization problems occurring in the joints. Water also keeps you hydrated helping your joints, especially the synovial fluid, making it less susceptible to damage caused by uric acid.
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