Gout is a chronic disease that affects about 1% of the population in Europe. It is the most common inflammatory rheumatism in men (after the age of 40); in women, gout occurs later (after the age of 65).
Gout is characterised by an abnormally high level of uric acid in the blood – known as hyperuricaemia. When this level reaches (or exceeds) 60 mg per litre of blood (i.e. 360 µmol/L), crystals form in the joints and in the soft tissues surrounding the joints: this is when a gout attack occurs.
Symptoms: how do you know if you have a gout attack?
The joint, inflamed by the deposit of monosodium urate crystals, is :
- Very painful: the pain is stabbing and can prevent sleep (sleeplessness),
- Red or even purplish,
- Hot to the touch.
- Good to know. Although the gout attack most often affects the big toe (in 56% to 78% of cases during the first attack), it can also occur in other joints of the foot (ankle), hand (wrist, fingers), elbow or knee.
Gout attack: what are the risk factors?
People with a family history of gout, but also those suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes (type 1 or type 2), obesity or having a cardiovascular background (having experienced a myocardial infarction, a stroke, etc.) are more likely to have a gout attack.
A gout attack can be caused by a number of factors, such as
- Local trauma: wearing shoes that are too tight, for example,
- Physical or psychological stress: after a surgical operation, for example,
- A diet rich in purine: red meat, beer (even non-alcoholic), strong alcohols, soft drinks, etc.
- Taking certain medicines: aspirin, for example,
- Dehydration: after intense physical effort or prolonged fasting, for example.
How to treat gout?
Gout is a chronic disease: this means that, if left untreated, there are more or less frequent attacks – specialists estimate that the average time between 2 attacks is about 2 years.
Thus, people who have already had a gout attack can recognise the “warning signs”: the joint concerned (usually the big toe) is tingling, mobility may be limited, discomfort or even pain may be felt…
Gout attacks are treated with specific medications: these include colchicine, anti-inflammatory drugs or cortisone (in infiltrations or in tablets). These medicines can be taken at the first signs of a gout attack.
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