Gout Symptoms to Be Aware Of
Tophi is one of the worst symptoms of gout. This occurs when you’ve had chronic gout for a long time and you’ve ignored all the medical advice given to you. At this point, the concentration of uric acid in the body is so high that deposits start to form in the joints. This can occur in the toe, ankle, knee, ear, fingers, and elbows. Basically, any joint in your body that’s far from the heart and blood circulation is poor.
It seems painless in the beginning but once the deposit grows big enough, it can break out from the skin appearing to be chalky, white lumps. If left untreated, tophi can damage the joints and cartilage, as well as affect the organs.
Tophi is usually treated with medication such as Krystexxa and febuxostat. These medications help shrink tophi and lower uric acid levels. The goal of the therapy is to reach uric acid blood levels of 6 mg/dl or below. If therapy doesn’t work, surgically removing the tophi is often required. At this point, the condition could already be greatly affecting normal movement hence the need for surgery.
10. Joint Damage
At the most advanced stage of gout, you may experience serious joint damage and bone loss. The affected joints feel permanently stiff, swollen, and painful, and the interval between attacks become shorter.
Once you start experiencing these symptoms, it’s already called chronic tophaceous gout. This is why it’s important to treat the condition the moment you see early symptoms otherwise, you’ll experience lasting damage such as this.
How Frequent Do Symptoms Occur?
Depending on the type of gout you have, you may experience gout a few times each year. If you have acute gout, you will experience attacks one to two times per year. However, those who have chronic gout may experience multiple flares in shorter intervals.
Most people will confuse gout with rheumatoid arthritis; it’s important that you learn how to distinguish between the two, so you can get appropriate treatment right away. Gout has a different pattern of joint involvement (ankles, midfoot, knees, and elbows) from rheumatoid arthritis.
The pain is also much more dramatic with gout, unlike rheumatoid arthritis where the pain evolves more slowly and you’re still able to function normally. In fact, 44 percent of female gout sufferers who had children said that gout attacks were more painful than childbirth.
Another tricky thing about gout is the age you start experiencing it. You may already have high levels of uric acid in the body when you are in your 20s, but you won’t know it until 20 to 30 years later. This is why most people who are affected by gout are middle-aged and older men.
Dr. Robert Wortmann compares uric acid to matches. They can stay in your body quietly for years without causing inflammation and then one day, because of the very high concentrations of uric acid, the matches get lit and inflammation begins.
There are also instances when a drastic drop in uric acid levels can cause a gout attack. This would explain why some men will experience a gout attack even if their uric acid levels are normal.
Diagnosing Gout: Do I Have Gout? Or Is It Something Else?
If you are still unsure if you have gout, it’s best to consult with your doctor. This is very important since gout requires lifelong treatment. There are several ways to get diagnosed for this condition. The most common and accurate is the joint fluid test where the doctor will draw fluid from the affected area and check for urate crystals under a microscope.
You can also do a blood test, x-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan. Depending on your healthcare provider, doing a combination of these tests will help ensure that you get a proper diagnosis. The higher there are uric acids there are in the joints, the more subsequent the gout attacks will be.
Treating Your Gout and Gout Symptoms
Thanks to modern science, there are now drugs you can take to help manage your gout symptoms. They can be classified into two types: medicine for treating gout attacks and medicine for preventing gout complications. Medicine for treating gout attacks can help relieve pain and control the inflammation.
If gout isn't treated or managed properly, gout complications may appear, this may include:
- Severe joint pain and deformity may arise.
- Large tophi may cause dramatic changes in the appearance, particularly of the hands or feet.
- The disease can be so severe as to render the hands and feet virtually unusable.
- Osteoarthritis may arise.
- Tophi may cause breaks in the skin if they enlarge greatly, which can cause infection.
- Mobility, independence and body image may be altered.
- Living with chronic pain and debility can cause serious emotional distress.
- Elevated uric acid levels and crystal formation may result in kidney disease.
- Kidney stones and damage to the filtration system of the kidneys can occur.
To avoid gout complications, certain drugs are taken to help manage uric acid levels in the body. There is medications like allopurinol and febuxostat which block the production of uric acid while there are medications that improve the excretion of uric acid. This includes uricosuric drugs like probenecid and lesinurad which help improve the kidney’s ability to remove uric acid.
Next Steps for Managing Gout and Gout Symptoms
All these drugs are great. However, you shouldn’t be relying on medicine alone. Prevention through eating a gout-friendly diet (or avoiding foods that cause your gout to flare) and healthy lifestyle changes are always better than any pill.
No matter how many medicines you take, if you are not taking care of your health, gout symptoms will continue to haunt you. Wouldn’t you want to address the root cause of the problem and enjoy the long-term benefits instead of using band-aid remedies that only treat the symptom?
Now over to you. What symptoms have you experienced with gout? How did you manage it? Share your stories in the comments below.