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‘Tis the season to be gouty

With the excesses of eating and drinking that often accompany Christmas and the summer holidays, it would appear that ‘the gout Season' is upon us.

Gout is a form of arthritis and a gout ‘attack' usually comes on very quickly with extreme pain and swelling in a joint, such as the big toe. Gout is a condition that needs to be taken seriously, as left untreated it can have serious effects on your joints and kidneys.

So, what causes gout? The proteins in the food we eat are digested and broken down to produce a chemical called uric acid. If the body produces too much uric acid or if the kidneys are unable to remove it, then uric acid levels rise. Small crystals can form in the joints and swelling and pain result.

Gout is often hereditary. Certain medications increase your risk of getting gout – as does being overweight. It can be triggered by an excess of certain foods and alcohol – all the stuff we enjoy at a barbecue! Foods rich in purines are the ‘bad guys'.

If you have experienced gout pain, or know you have high blood levels of uric acid, cut-down on, or avoid eating, foods such as shellfish, large quantities of red meat, offal and large amounts of legumes. Drinking lots of alcohol, especially beer, can also bring-on gout so it is best to cut right down and instead drink plenty of water.

The pain of an acute ‘attack' can be relieved with medicines such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.  Any treatment for a flare up should be started quickly. If an attack of gout is allowed to last more than a day or so before treatment is started, your body's response may be much slower.

There are also other different types of medicine available to prevent gout long-term. Medicines such as these need to be taken on a regular basis, even when you don't have gout symptoms. These also may be prescribed by your doctor.

So, don't dismiss that bad pain in your big toe, or any other joint for that matter. Talk with a pharmacist or doctor about pain relief and what you can do to prevent further ‘attacks', such as medication and changes to lifestyle and diet.

With gout, prevention really is better than trying to cure it, so best get sorted before Christmas Day arrives.