Gout, or gouty arthritis, is a metabolic form of arthritis in which there is inflammation in one of the joints (such as the big toe, knee, or elbow). Gout can be extremely painful. This condition is normally associated with males, however over the past 20 years the number of women succumbing to this condition has almost doubled. To gain a better understanding of this debilitating condition, read our informative article below. You'll learn the causes that trigger a gout flare-up, how to manage attacks, and also how to prevent them.
What Is Gout?
As a form of arthritis, gout can affect anyone. This is a condition caused if the uric acid levels are too high in the bloodstream and it begins to crystallize in the joint. The symptoms of this condition include a sudden intense joint pain that can last for up to 12 hours. Thereafter, there may be lingering discomfort that can last for days or even weeks. There are signs of redness and inflammation, leading to tender and warm joints. All of this can limit your range of motion, and in the long term, some deformity of the joints might develop.
Gout is a form of metabolic arthritis in which the levels of uric acid in the blood are high. What manifests is swelling and pain in the joints.
How Does Gout Manifest In Women?
Even though the female hormone estrogen protects women from developing this condition (by flushing the uric acid out of the system), this protection lessens as the estrogen levels drop. Especially after menopause when women's estrogen levels decline. As a result, uric acid levels in the bloodstream increase. However, it is also important to point out that women with gout normally also have other health issues, such as kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or obesity. Unlike men, in which a flare-up will be localized to one joint, women often get gout in many parts of the body, including their toes, wrists, knees, and their fingertips. It is possible for women with osteoarthritis-related damage to be diagnosed with inflammatory osteoarthritis of the fingertips, even though this may in fact be gout.
It is not just men that develop gout, women can also suffer from this ailment. When estrogen levels drop in females, their defense against gout also dissipates. However, the reality is that many women are not diagnosed correctly, which can be dangerous because gout in women has been linked to several life-threatening health concerns.
What Are The Causes And Risk Factors For Developing Gout?
As the body breaks down purines, uric acids are produced. The problem is that certain foods have high levels of purines (such as red meat and seafood). Drinks like beer, and fruit juices which are high in fructose promote raised levels of uric acid. Normally the kidneys would expel the uric acid through the urine. If there is an overload, the kidneys cannot filter everything.
High levels of uric acid result in urate crystals building up in the joints. These cause inflammation and consequently, pain. It is, however, it is not only diet that can increase your risk of developing gout: being obese puts the body in line for production of more uric acid. Also, certain medication, such as diuretics (used for hypertension) and aspirin can increase uric acid levels. Furthermore, various medical conditions such as untreated hypertension, diabetes, as well as heart and kidney diseases, can increase the risk of developing gout. Lastly, besides the body undergoing extreme stress, a women's risk of developing gout increases after menopause, as uric acid reaches the same level as men.
Gout is caused by a buildup of uric acid, which is the by-product of purines. Factors increasing uric acid include stress, diet, postmenopausal phase, and certain medication.
How Can You Prevent Gout?
It may not be possible to prevent an attack of gout once the condition flares up, but there are measures that may be taken to reduce the number of flare-ups and severity. Some of the measures that can be taken include:
- Avoid or reduce alcohol intake
Avoid drinks high in purines such as beer. Some low-alcohol drinks are still high in purines, and these can trigger higher uric acid levels.
- Drink large quantities of fluids
It is important to be well hydrated. However, avoid sweetened drinks such as soft drinks. Even a naturally sweetened drink like orange juice, high in fructose, can increase your risk of gout. Coffee, however, if consumed regularly, may help protect you from gout. The chemical structure of caffeine is very similar to gout medication.
- Consume protein from low-fat dairy products
These products are not only great sources of protein, but they can protect you against gout. Meat, poultry and fish may cause problems, therefore should only be eaten in limited amounts.
- Stay at your ideal body weight
When you lose weight, your uric acid levels also decrease. Therefore if you gain weight, these acids also increase. However, if you lose too much weight too fast you may have a temporary increase in uric acid levels.
Even though gout is a genetic disease, there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of developing gout, or lessen the frequency of a flare-up. Most of these are lifestyle changes.
How Can You Treat Gout?
Although your first defense would be to prevent developing gout, thereby reducing your risk factors, this is not always possible, especially since gout is a genetic disease. However, there are medications as well as dietary supplements that may be used to lower the uric acid production levels. Your first step would be to consult your doctor, who might refer you to a rheumatologist for specialist management. However, the overall goal would be to reduce pain during an attack, as well as swelling and inflammation to increase mobility.
In addition, dietary supplements may prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies that could be the reason for an attack of gout. Supplements can also aid in improving the liver and kidney function to assist with flushing out unwanted uric acid.
Our Ultimate Take Home Message
Gout, which is a genetic disease, can affect the lives of women equally as men when estrogen levels start to drop after menopause. Although men will develop this condition much earlier, diagnosing gout in women is vital for their kidney and heart health. Women are 39% more inclined to have a heart attack if they have gout, unlike only 11% of men. However, by applying a holistic approach of diet, stress management, and by avoiding certain medication, better control may be had over the condition. Using gout medication and dietary supplements can lower your uric acid levels successfully. Nevertheless, you need to consult your doctor, who will place you on a gout-management plan, which involves monitoring your kidney and heart health.