Despite the fact that many have never heard of it, gout is one of the world’s oldest-known diseases.
Soccer fans would have read about Socceroos’ star Harry Kewell being stuck down with a case of gout during the recent World Cup, leading him to miss out on Australia’s second round match against Italy, which saw the Aussies defeated one-nil.
So what is gout?
Gout is actually a form of arthritis. It’s caused by a build up of acid crystals in joints which causes inflammation. The condition is caused by an excess of uric acid (a waste product of the body) in the blood. The condition most commonly affects the base of the big toe, but it can also affect the instep, ankle, knee, wrist, elbow and fingers.
Gout is extremely painful, and the affected joint becomes red, hot, swollen and extremely sensitive to touch. Sometimes even the weight of a bed sheet on the affected area can be too much for a gout sufferer.
Why do people get gout?
People who suffer from gout have too much uric acid in their bloodstream wither because their body is making too much of it, or because their body can’t get rid of it properly. Uric acid is eliminated from the body by the kidneys, so people who are prone to gout might also get kidney stones.
The female hormone oestrogen seems to give women protection against gout, which means that the condition is less common in females.
Gout most commonly affects overweight middle-aged men who eat a lot of red meat, drink a lot of alcohol and have high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Other things that can cause an attack of gout can include dehydration, injury or surgery or sudden starvation.
An attack of gout usually goes away after a few days, but it can last longer. If you suffer from repeated attacks yo should speak to your doctor about suitable treatment.
Keep gout at bay
The best way to avoid getting gout is to drink lots of water, cut down on the grog, maintain a healthy weight and keep fit and healthy. Avoid foods that can cause an excess of uric acid in the blood, such as shellfish, liver, brains and kidney, anchovies and sardines.