Gout is on the rise, and now over 8 million adults in the US suffer from this painful condition. Gout isn't something you take a pill for and forget about.
Gout can cause joint damage and long-term health complications, and a uric acid test can give you the answers you need.
It's time to take control of your health and feel better today. Gout symptoms don't have to control your life.
If you're wondering if you have gout, then keep reading this guide to learn all about gout and the reasons and benefits of a uric acid test.
What is Gout
Gout is as common as it is complex. Gout is a type of arthritis that causes excruciating pain, stiffness, tenderness, and swelling in your joints. Gout typically affects the base of the joint of your big toe.
Gout attacks come on quickly, often waking you up in the middle of the night making you think your big toe is up in flames. Gout comes and goes, and the leading cause is high levels of uric acid, which forms crystals.
High uric acid levels are usually due to issues with the kidneys and your body producing too much uric acid. Typically uric acid dissolves and passes through your kidneys. But with gout, the balance is disrupted, and uric acid builds up, forming sharp urate crystals in your joints.
Often gout starts silently, only with high uric acid levels. If you catch it in this stage, it's possible to reduce your uric acid to avoid painful attacks.
Risk factors for Gout
The higher your uric acid levels are, the more likely you'll develop gout. Things that increase your uric acid level include:
Your diet can play a massive role in causing gout. Eating a diet full of red meat and beer will dramatically increase your chances of getting gout.
Your weight can also play a part in uric acid production. When you're overweight, your body makes more uric acid, and your kidneys can't keep up with eliminating the excess.
Medical conditions like obesity, untreated high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart and kidney disease increase your risk of developing gout. But also certain medications you take for high blood pressure like beta-blockers do.
Men tend to have higher uric acid levels than women, so you're more at risk if you're a man. Men also typically develop gout earlier than women, between the ages of 30 and 50.
If you have family members with gout, then you're more likely to develop it too. Also, having surgery or a traumatic accident can sometimes cause a gout attack.
Causes of Gout
When too many urate crystals accumulate in your joints, you get inflammation and severe pain, known as a gout attack. Uric acid crystals cause gout. When uric acid levels become too high in your blood, it leads to urate crystals.
Your body also produces uric acid when it breaks down foods that contain purines. Purines are found in foods like organ meats, red meat, mussels, scallops, and trout. Purine is also in alcohol, especially beer and drinks flavored with fructose.
Signs and Symptoms of Gout
The signs of gout symptoms come on suddenly and most often in the middle of the night. Symptoms you'll notice include:
- Intense and crippling joint pain, usually in your big toe
- Pain is most severe for the first 4 to 12 hours
- Redness and inflammation
- The inability to move your joint normally
While gout usually affects your big toe, it can affect your elbows, fingers, wrists, and knees.
If you experience sudden and excruciating pain in your joints, then contact your doctor as soon as possible. Untreated gout leads to joint damage and more pain in your future.
Complications of Gout
Gout can lead to more severe conditions like recurrent gout attacks, which eventually cause significant destruction of your joints. If gout is left untreated, it can turn into advanced gout.
In this case, deposits form under your skin and create nodules that become swollen during gout attacks.
Kidney stones are also a complication of gout. Urate crystals collect in your urinary tract when you have gout. This collection of crystals can cause large stones and kidney damage if left untreated.
Diagnosis of Gout
Your doctor can typically diagnose gout based on how your joint looks and the symptoms you have. To confirm the diagnosis, they will usually order different uric acid tests.
X-rays of the joint are helpful to make sure nothing else is causing your inflammation. Ultrasound imaging can also detect urate crystals in your joints.
Sometimes doctors will also do a joint fluid test. A needle draws out fluid from your joint for microscopic examination.
And finally, your doctor will want you to have bloodwork to check your uric acid levels.
Lab Tests for Gout
To diagnose gout, your doctor will order a uric acid lab test. Higher than normal uric acid levels are a great indicator of gout, but other health conditions need to be ruled out.
High uric acid levels require further investigation, as there could be other causes like leukemia, cancers, chronic kidney disease, and pregnancy complications.
You'll see low uric acid levels with kidney disease, long-term alcohol use, and lead poisoning.
Your doctor may also check a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) and a complete blood count (CBC) to assess your overall health and rule out other conditions.
Other tests, such as ANA, or antinuclear antibody, and RF, or rheumatoid factor, can be done to rule out various other potential sources for arthritis symptoms. A synovial fluid or blood culture might be necessary if there is suspicion of septic arthritis.
Treatment for Gout
Treatment for gout focuses on reducing your uric acid levels and reducing inflammation.
Medications for gout include over-the-counter medications like Advil or Aleve. Doctors will often prescribe you a more potent anti-inflammatory for the beginning stages of a gout attack.
Steroid medications and Colchicine can effectively reduce your gout pain along with drugs like Aloprim, which reduces the amount of uric acid your body makes.
You'll also need to make lifestyle changes like limiting alcohol, eating less red meat, and exercising daily.
Did you know gout is among the earliest recognized diseases? The Egyptians first identified gout around 2000 BC, as did Hippocrates in the fifth century BC.
Hippocrates called gout the "un-walkable disease" and associated it with affluent lifestyles where people could afford fine red meats and alcohol. Throughout history, people also called gout the disease of kings. And having gout was thought to signify wealth and class.
Uric Acid Test
Ulta Lab Tests offers highly accurate and reliable tests so that you can make informed decisions about your health.
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Order your uric acid lab test today, and your results will be provided to you securely and confidentially online in 24 to 48 hours for most tests.
Take control of your health with Ulta Lab Tests.