What is gout, what are the symptoms and how can you to prevent it

Renowned for being a disease that cursed the wealthy, gout has often been linked to a “rich man’s” diet – one heavy in meat.

Gout is a type of arthritis where crystals of sodium urate form inside and around joints, causing sudden attacks of severe pain and swelling.

It was extremely common in Victorian times, when wealthy people would consume a diet favouring rich and unhealthy foods.

These diets were high in alcohol, red meat, organ foods, and seafood, all of which were considered luxury.

Today it’s estimated that between one and two in every 100 people in the UK are affected by gout.

According to the NHS, the condition mainly affects men over 30 and women after the menopause.

What are the symptoms of gout?
There are some tell-tale warning signs of gout to watch out for, these include:

Sudden severe joint pain – usually your big toe, but it can also affect other joints in your feet, hands, wrists, elbows or knees (One patient said it feels like a “foot full of glass shards”)

Hot, swollen, red skin over the affected joint

A fever and chills accompanied by joint pain

Symptoms usually last between five to seven days, and then improve, claims the NHS.

The health body added that it may not cause lasting damage to joints if you get treatment immediately.

If you experience the pain getting worse, have a high temperature, feel shivery, sick, or cannot eat, you are urged to contact your GP or call 111.

If the symptoms worsen, this could mean you have an infection inside your joint and need urgent medical help.

If gout isn’t treated, it can recur often and multi flare-ups can also lead to tophi, warns Healthline.

These are large deposits of crystals beneath your skin that can cause joint damage and deformity.

What causes gout flare-ups?
According to Healthline, some factors that contribute to gout are gender and age, while others are lifestyle based.

Causes of a gout flare up include:

Older age

Being male at birth

Obesity

Diet high in purines, which are broken down into uric acid in your body

Alcohol use

Sweetened beverages, sodas and high fructose corn syrup

Medications including diuretics, low dose aspirin, some antibiotics prescribed for tuberculosis, and cyclosporine

How can I prevent gout?
Attacks of gout are usually treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) such as ibuprofen.

If the pain continues, you may be prescribed steroids as tablets or an injection.

However, there are lifestyle changes that can prevent gout returning, these include:

Eat a healthy balanced diet

Get to a healthy weight, but avoid crash diets

Reduce alcohol consumption

Drink plenty of fluids

Exercise regularly, but avoid putting pressure on joints

Stop smoking

Consult your GP about vitamin C supplements

If you experience symptoms, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and treatment.