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Gout is a painful condition that can occur when too much of a metabolism byproduct called uric acid is present in the bloodstream. There are two main reasons why people have too much uric acid in their bloodstream:
They are “over-producers.” In other words, they produce too much uric acid.
They are “under-excretors.” This means that the body doesn’t eliminate uric acid at a fast enough rate. Nearly 90% of gout sufferers fall into this category.
Whether an excess of uric acid is in the blood due to over-production or under-excretion, the end result is the same. As the blood, saturated with uric acid, flows away from the heart, it cools and the uric acid crystallizes. These crystals typically deposit in joints that are located far from the heart. Two of the joints most commonly affected are the ankle and the base of the great toe.
Gout pain, especially around the big toe, has been said to be one of the most painful conditions known. The pain in gout is not caused by the crystals directly, but is caused when the body tries to get rid of the crystals. In addition to pain, gout can also cause the bones around the joint to erode.
Certain foods tend to increase the level of uric acid in the blood. These foods include seafood, organ meat, and alcohol, especially beer. Historically, gout was a disease of the rich since only the rich could afford some of these foods and drinks. Today, however gout affects people of all races and socioeconomic classes. Gout does tend to affect men more often than women, and the incidence of gout increases with age.
Treatment options for gout include diet and lifestyle changes, medication, and occasionally surgery. Diet modifications and medication are aimed at lowering the level of uric acid. In addition to eliminating foods that can raise the level, certain foods can actually help lower the level of uric acid. These foods include cherries, dark berries, and foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids. It is also important to drink plenty of water to promote good kidney function. Surgery is occasionally needed when joint damage has occurred.