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House Calls: Gout affects nearly 3 million

Gout is a form of arthritis. It affects nearly 3 million people a year. It can cause burning pain, stiffness and swelling in a joint. It can occur over and over again if left untreated. Over time, it can harm the joint.

Gout occurs most commonly in men. Gout is strongly linked to obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. It can be hereditary. Drinking too much alcohol or eating too much meat or fish can also cause gout. Water pills can trigger gout as well.

The most common sign of gout is an attack at night involving swelling, redness, and sharp pain in the big toe. You can also get gout in the ankle, foot and knee. The attack can last a few days or many weeks. Another attack may not occur for months or even years.

Gout is usually diagnosed by symptoms and location of the pain. Your blood may be drawn to check your uric acid level. Uric acid is what produces crystals that deposit in the joints. This is what causes the pain. X-rays may be ordered to look for possible damage in the joint as a result of gout.

One treatment for acute attacks is a medicine called Colchicine. This medicine can be very effective if given early in an attack. Allopurinol may be used to return blood levels of uric acid to normal. Probenecid is a medicine which blocks uric acid production. Allopurinol and Probenecid are both used for prevention of gout in people who have it chronically. Anti inflammatories, such as Naproxen, can decrease inflammation and pain in the joint. It is the treatment of choice for acute attacks.

Avoiding certain foods and alcohol can reduce reoccurrences. Lifestyle changes such as weight loss may also help.

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