Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What is gout?"
My aunt is 54 and she has gout. What exactly is this disease?
I recommend your aunt discuss this issue with a primary care doctor or with a rheumatologist right away. As you may have heard from your aunt, patients with gout typically experience severe, acute pain in a joint or joints, characteristically the big toe. The pain from this condition can be excruciating, to the point that even the weight of a sheet in bed overnight is too painful to tolerate. The condition itself is caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joint space which subsequently causes inflammation and pain. Treatment for gout focuses on decreasing inflammation, often using steroids either taken orally or injected into the joint space. This can be very effective for treating an initial gout outbreak, but then one must consider why a patient developed gout in the first place. It may be that the kidneys are not very efficient at excreting uric acid, thus allowing it to build up in the blood and potentially crystallize in a joint space. Other people may over-produce uric acid via subtle differences in metabolism, while others may eat a diet high in uric acid containing foods. In general, patients with obvious risk factors (including obesity or poor kidney function) or with multiple attacks of gout in a short period of time will often prescribed medications to help the body eliminate uric acid to prevent further attacks. Overall, questions about diagnosing and treating gout can be addressed by a primary care physician or by a rheumatology specialist in severe cases. Your aunt should make an appointment right away.
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