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Quiz: Test Your Gout Smarts

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Only men get gout.

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Only men get gout.

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Both men and women can get gout, but it's much more common in men. Gout usually develops in middle age or later in men and after menopause in women.  

 

It's rare to develop gout before age 30. For people who develop gout that young, the disease can be more severe.

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What kind of deposits in your body cause gout?

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What kind of deposits in your body cause gout?

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Uric acid can form when your body breaks down purines -- a substance found in many foods. Normally, uric acid dissolves in your blood and passes easily through your kidneys. But when too much uric acid builds up in your body, forming sharp crystals in and around your joints, you can have painful gout attacks -- also known as flares.

You may be able to tell when a gout attack is coming by:

You may be able to tell when a gout attack is coming by:

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Many people with gout say they have a tingling feeling in a joint right before a flare starts. The pain can be so sudden and severe that it often wakes up people in the middle of the night. The affected joint is usually red, swollen, hot, and painful to touch.

Gout can be diagnosed with a simple blood test.

Gout can be diagnosed with a simple blood test.

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A blood test can measure your uric acid level, but that's not enough to diagnose gout. Even people without gout can have high uric acid. And people with a flare can have temporarily normal or low levels. 

 

To find out if you have gout, your health care provider will draw fluid from an inflamed joint with a needle and look for uric acid crystals. The shape, color, and appearance of the crystals can help diagnose gout.

You can get gout in your:

You can get gout in your:

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The most common place to have a gout flare is the big toe. But you also can have an attack in your ankle, wrist, knee, elbow, or any other joint.

Taking aspirin can help ease a gout attack.

Taking aspirin can help ease a gout attack.

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When you have a gout attack, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAID) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) might help with the pain. Your health care provider also may give you a prescription for a stronger NSAID; steroids (like prednisone); or a drug called colchicine to have on hand in case of a gout attack.

 

Taking aspirin, however, can be a bad idea. Aspirin can cause your uric acid levels to increase, which can bring on a gout flare or make a flare worse. Other medicines, such as diuretics (water pills) and cyclosporine, also can trigger a flare. That’s why it’s important that your rheumatologist knows about all your medications and that all your doctors know you have gout -- especially if they're going to start you on new medications.

When you're having a gout flare, it may help to:

When you're having a gout flare, it may help to:

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If you can bear the pressure, an ice pack may offer some pain relief. Gout flares often hurt so much, though, that you can’t move your joint. That's why it's better to rest it than to stretch it. Many people say it hurts just to feel a sheet on their joint at night, so you may want to take off bedcovers. And you definitely don't want to wrap the joint.

Why is gout known as the "disease of kings"?

Why is gout known as the "disease of kings"?

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You may be more likely to have gout because of your genes, but that's not how gout earned its royal nickname. Historically, gout has been associated with a lifestyle full of rich foods and plenty of alcohol -- the kind of diet that only kings and the wealthy could afford. While diet can trigger a flare, we now know that gout affects people regardless of  their social status.

Which foods may trigger a gout attack?

Which foods may trigger a gout attack?

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Foods that are high in a substance called purines can raise the uric acid in your blood, and that can trigger a gout attack. Some seafood -- like sardines, anchovies, mussels, and salmon -- is rich in purines, as are organ meats, like liver and kidneys.

 

It’s hard to avoid purines completely because they are in many foods. Instead, your health care provider may suggest you follow a low-purine diet. People with gout should try to avoid foods that trigger an attack.

Drinking beer can trigger a gout attack.

Drinking beer can trigger a gout attack.

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Beer and liquor are high in purines, which can raise uric acid and trigger gout attacks. They also tend to cause dehydration -- another common gout trigger. When you don't drink enough fluids, uric acid builds up in your body, and you can be more prone to a flare. Some fructose-sweetened drinks also can trigger a flare. Water is your best bet for staying hydrated.

Which food might protect against gout?

Which food might protect against gout?

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Eating a diet high in low-fat dairy foods -- like cheese and milk -- might lower uric acid levels in your blood and lower your chance of gout. One study found that people with gout who drank an enriched skim milk shake every day had fewer flares and less painful symptoms.

The more gout attacks you have, the worse they'll get.

The more gout attacks you have, the worse they'll get.

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Your first gout attack usually will affect just one joint and should get better after a few days. But as gout attacks become more frequent, they can affect several joints at once and can last for several weeks if they aren't treated.

You're more likely to get gout if you have:

You're more likely to get gout if you have:

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You're more likely to get gout if you are overweight, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or have diabetes. Gout often runs in families. Drinking lots of beer and liquor or taking certain medications also may make you more likely to develop gout.

The only way to prevent a gout attack is to change your diet.

The only way to prevent a gout attack is to change your diet.

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Cutting out foods that might trigger a flare is a great step to help prevent gout. But if you've had several attacks in one year, your health care provider may recommend medication, such as febuxostat (Uloric), allopurinol (Lopurin, Zyloprim), colchicine (Colcrys), or probenecid (Benemid). The drugs actually may cause an attack when you first start taking them, so your doctor might give you other medicine in case that happens. 

 

Obesity raises your risk of having gout, so losing weight is another way to reduce the risk.

Uric acid also can affect your:

Uric acid also can affect your:

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Besides causing gout, uric acid also can collect in the kidneys and cause kidney stones. About one in five people with gout will develop kidney stones. They can be very painful and, if left untreated, can lead to kidney infections or damage.

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