4 facts to help you understand gout

October 9, 2015

Long associated with overindulgent eating and drinking, gout was once called the "disease of kings." But this painful condition is actually an excess of uric acid -- a compound found in our bodies and also in many foods. The acid forms crystals that build up in joints causing intense pain, swelling, and inflammation. Here's what you need to know to understand gout.

4 facts to help you understand gout

Who is at risk?

  • People who have two or more drinks a day are at particular risk.
  • Those with untreated high blood pressure, diabetes, or high levels of cholesterol and other blood fats
  • People taking some medications such as diuretics for high blood pressure, antirejection drugs for transplants, or even aspirin
  • Those with a family history of gout
  • Men in their forties and fifties
  • Women after menopause.

What triggers an attack?

There are several ways to trigger an attack. Knowing what sets it off will help you avoid the painful consequences.

  • A meal rich in organ meats such as liver and kidneys
  • A boozy evening
  • A recent injury or surgery
  • A fever

What does an attack look like?

Uric acid forms crystals which land in the tissue of joints. They can land in other spots too: the foot, ankles, knees, hands, and wrists. The pain often rears up at night, and a bout can last one to two weeks, affecting one joint or several.

What can help?

Several studies have shown that soy foods like tofu and edamame lower uric acid. Soy foods are a low-calorie protein boon for gout sufferers swearing off fattier proteins like red meat.

Fortunately, you and your doctor can address the pain with medications, diet, and other lifestyle changes. Preventing the condition in the first place is key to avoiding its pain.

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