Arthritis comes in many different forms. Rheumatoid arthritis is often thought of as one of the most debilitating. But the truth is that gout can also be very painful and can lead to loss of mobility and range of movement, as well as causing a reduction in your quality of life.
In this post, we will explore the answers to a number of questions you may have about gout.
- What is gout?
- What are the symptoms of gout?
- What are the risk factors for developing gout?
- How is gout treated?
- How do you know if you need gout surgery?
- How can Michigan Surgery Specialists help?
What Is Gout?
Gout involves the buildup of uric acid, usually affecting the joints and the kidneys.
As levels of uric acid in the blood rise, crystals form within the joints of the body. Eventually, the presence of the crystals causes the bone to erode, causing even more discomfort.
In most cases, the joints of the foot and ankle are affected, with the joint of the big toe being the most common, but other joints can be affected, including the ankle and knee.
Gout is much more prevalent in men than in women, although the incidence of gout affecting women rises after menopause. Men are six times more likely to develop the condition than women, and gout affects up to 2% of the global population.
What Are the Symptoms of Gout
The symptoms of gout are very straightforward and easy to recognize:
- Red joints
- Swollen joints and swelling in tissues around the joints
- “Hot” joints
- Limited range of motion even when a flare up is not occurring
- Extreme pain in affected joints
- The appearance of “tophi” or gout crystals under the skin visible as white bumps
- Lingering discomfort after the flare up fades
What Are the Risk Factors for Developing Gout?
While gout is a very common condition, it is not something that everyone experiences. What makes one person develop gout, but not another? There are actually quite a few factors that make someone more likely to suffer from gout:
- Gender: Men are up to six times more likely to develop gout than women.
- Genetics: If you have a family member who suffers from gout, you are much more likely to develop the condition yourself.
- Age: Gout occurs more frequently in older individuals. Even women are more likely to develop gout as they move past the age of menopause
- Diet: Meat and seafood are known to increase the levels of uric acid in the body. The same is true for fructose (fruit sugars). Diets high in meat, seafood and fructose can make you more likely to develop gout.
- Medications: Several medications make gout more likely, including thiazide diuretics used in treating high blood pressure. Aspirin can also increase uric acid concentrations.
- Weight: Uric acid production in the body increases directly with weight. Obese individuals are more likely to develop gout because of this, combined with the greater difficulty in processing uric acid in the kidneys.
How Is Gout Treated?
The method used to treat gout will depend on a number of factors., Treatment may be as mild as anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen), and as severe as surgery.
Other treatment options include:
- Rheumatological medications
- Compression garments/appliances
In most cases, gout does not require surgery. However, there are cases where gout surgery is needed. In all situations, the underlying issue is the damage being done to the joint and the body by the underlying gout crystals. These can erode the bone material, but they can also break through the skin, causing drainage and leading to infection.
How Do You Know If You Need Gout Surgery?
In most cases, patients who need gout surgery did not receive proper care for their condition in the early stages. Gout can usually be controlled very well with medications, as well as changes to diet and lifestyle.
However, if steps were not taken in time, it is possible that bone, joint and tendon damage has resulted. This type of gout is called chronic tophaceous gout, and it is disabling.
Surgical options include:
- Tophi Removal: In some cases, removal of the tophi (crystals) in the joint can be removed surgically.
- Joint Fusion: In the instance that bone erosion has occurred, fusion may be necessary.
- Joint Replacement: Depending on the joint and the health of the surrounding bone, the surgeon may recommend joint replacement surgery. The knee is the most common replacement joint.
How Can Michigan Surgery Specialists Help?
At Michigan Surgery Specialists, our team of experienced surgeons has helped many people struggling with gout. Our doctors will accurately diagnose your condition, determine the progression of gout, and decide if surgery is necessary.