There are many types of arthritis, which get a lot of media attention. Charities raise awareness for the two ‘big players’ of Arthritis, Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. These affect the joints in severe ways, and often require surgery for them to regain any function, however, one of the types of arthritis, which is commonly overlooked, is Gout.
1. Gout is caused by a build up of a waste product called urea
Urea is present in your blood and is usually filtered out by your kidneys. Your kidneys are usually able to maintain a level of urea in the blood, which the body can cope with. With old age and illness, your kidneys can struggle to handle the level of this waste product in the blood, meaning a raised level remains in your body. When there is a certain concentration of urea in the blood, it begins to crystallise inside the joints of the body. These crystals are tiny, and can remain unnoticed for the majority of someone’s adult life, only causing pain and other symptoms when there is a large amount of crystals of considerable size.
2. Gout usually affects the big toe
The number one symptom of gout is pain and the most commonly affected joint in the body is the big toe, however, it can affect any joint of the body as the crystallised waste-product can merge together to make large clusters within any affected joint. These large crystals grind on the bones and erode away the protective cartilage surrounding the bones, leading to irreversible damage.
3. Gout can deform the joints
As well as the crystallised waste product affecting the surfaces of the joint, they can also protrude out of the joint, irritating the structures around it, inflaming the tissues causing acute pain and redness. In severe cases, the joints are so severely deformed that some joints such as hands and toes can appear like those of late-stage Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.
4. Excess alcohol and rich foods cause gout
Gout is highly correlated with a lavish lifestyle, and those who overindulge in rich foods and alcohol are often associated with developing gout. One of the most famous gout sufferers was Henry VIII – his love of red wine and fatty foods was instrumental in his development of gout. Taking simple steps to change your lifestyle by reducing your alcohol intake and exercising more can play a role in reducing the incidence of Gout. Gout does have a strong genetic link, making those with relative historically suffering with gout more susceptible, but that doesn’t mean your risk can be reduced.
5. Exercise can help reduce the pain caused by gout
Exercises to the affected areas can reduce the pain associated with gout, similar with other types of arthritis. Your physiotherapist can prescribe exercises in order to reduce the pain and other symptoms. Regular stretching and moving the joints throughout range frequently can reduce the build up of these crystals, but it often requires surgical intervention just like the other types of arthritis mentioned previously.
Post by Zoe Birch, Head of Orthopaedic Physiotherapy at Physiocomestoyou.