Gout is a type of arthritis and is located within the joints and the surrounding areas. It is caused by an increase in uric acid, which forms into sharp pointed crystals that build up in the joints and surrounding soft tissues and cartilage. The onset of gout begins with a very extreme sudden pain. When a person feels this pain, gout is already well into the second and acute stage of the disease. This is why medical care early on is so important. By the time a person feels the pain of gout, they are already well into the disease process.
There are many factors in what causes the onset of gout. First there is a genetic component coupled with increased weight, alcohol consumption, eating unhealthy or foods high in purines and street drug use. Gout can also be caused by serious health conditions, trauma and surgery. Also, middle aged males and even some children are at increased risk for gout. Gout has also been linked to chronic lead exposure. Regardless of the factors, gout should always be treated promptly to avoid complications. With prompt treatment flares and damage to the body can be minimal.
Gout can cause many complications in the body. Gout usually begins in the great toe, but it can quickly extend to all of the joints. Gout causes extreme pain and damages the joints and surrounding tissues. This causes loss of range of, motion, inability to walk and deformities due to swelling. Gout can also cause nodules under the skin called Tophi (To-fee). These nodules are usually painless, but they can be unsightly. Some tophi have been reported to be about the size of golf balls. Tophi are most often seen on the lobes of the ears. There is a very rare complication with tophi lodging in the disks of the spine and causing disk compression. Gout can also cause deformities to the feet, which necessitates the use of a different type of shoe for comfort.
Effects in Body’s Major Organ Systems
There are also affects on some of the body’s major organ systems. The effects on the kidneys are the most dangerous and also the most common. This is why it is very important to increase intake of fluids with gout. Because of the increase of uric acid (hyperuricemia) there is an increased risk of kidney stones. Uric acid can also cause complete kidney failure in some cases. This is why treatment and control of this disease is so important.
Gout can also cause hypertension, heart failure and coronary artery disease. Research has shown that the combination of heart disease and hyperuricemia, in some instances, can be fatal. Gout has also been connected to dry eyes, lung issues (rare), Cataracts and spinal stenosis (rare).
Because of the severity of the complications of gout, it is important to seek medical care as soon as symptoms appear. There are medications to decrease uric acid levels in the blood, control inflammation and pain. With proper treatment gout is a manageable disease and complications can be minimized.
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