Gout is a condition that affects over 2 million Americans. It occurs due to the buildup of uric acid deposits, which are white, odorless crystals that accumulate in the body, leading to redness and swelling of the joints. Gout attacks are sudden and characterized by intense pain. Common sites of involvement include the big toe, ankle, and knee. While gout can affect individuals of all ages and genders, it is uncommon in women before menopause.
A definite diagnosis of gout requires fluid removal from an affected joint, which is then tested for the presence of uric acid. A joint fluid test is preferred over a blood test because the uric acid level in the blood may appear normal even when gout is present. Additionally, a high level of uric acid in the blood alone does not necessarily indicate the presence of gout.
Medications and diet can play a significant role in triggering gout attacks. Certain substances in medications and foods can raise uric acid levels in the blood, increasing the risk of gout attacks. Diuretics like Lasix® and hydrochlorothiazide, used to treat high blood pressure and fluid retention, can heighten the likelihood of gout attacks. Aspirin can also raise uric acid levels and exacerbate gout attacks.
Foods that contain high levels of purine can elevate uric acid levels in the blood, thus changing your diet might help prevent gout attacks. It’s advisable to avoid consuming sweetbreads, herring, mussels, and sardines, as they can be triggering. Additionally, reducing or avoiding alcoholic beverages, particularly beer, heavy wines, and champagne, can be beneficial.
According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a diet that includes dairy products and vegetables may assist in preventing gout. Moreover, maintaining a reasonable weight is essential, as obesity and overeating (“bingeing”) have been linked to gout development.
In cases where frequent gout attacks persist despite medication and dietary changes, your doctor may prescribe certain drugs to prevent flare-ups. These may include colchicine, Benemid® (probenecid), or Zyloprim® (allopurinol).