What can be done for this condition?
Gout cannot be cured, but it can be very successfully treated. The main goal of treating gout is to reduce the amount of urate in your blood. Joint crystals will not dissolve or go away unless the serum urate concentration is below six mg/dL.
During the acute or early phase of a gout attack, doctors prescribe medicines called colchicine, certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and corticosteroids to decrease swelling and relieve pain. All of these drugs work quickly and are very effective. The sooner they are given after an attack starts, the faster the pain goes away. These drugs may be given by mouth, through an intravenous line into your bloodstream, or injected directly into the joint. There are some potential adverse side effects of these medications. It may take a bit of time to find the most effective drug with the least intolerable side effects for some patients. Most importantly, one should start drug treatment during the first few days of an attack to get the best results.
Your doctor may also decompress the affected joint. Aspiration of synovial fluid immediately decreases the pressure in the joint and the needle leaves a pathway or track that acts as a vent for continued drainage after the needle is removed.
Lifestyle changes can help you manage intermittent gout without using drugs every day. Your healthcare professional may ask you to do the following:
Change your diet. Diets that are lower in meat, shellfish, and some other foods can help decrease the amount of uric acid in your body. Avoiding fructose sweetened foods and beverages can do the same.
- Quit taking drugs such as diuretics, if possible.
- Lose weight.
- Quit drinking alcohol.
- Avoid activities that stress your joints.
- Drink plenty of fluids to help your kidneys work more efficiently.
If your gout is severe, prolonged, or chronic, you may need to take daily serum uric acid-lowering (SUA) medication to reduce your uric acid levels. Your doctor will put you on the lowest dose possible of medications such as uricosuric drugs or xanthine oxidase inhibitors. Doctors usually prescribe allopurinol (Zyloprim, a xanthine oxidase inhibitor) for patients who overproduce urates or have tophi, kidney disease, or kidney stones. Allopurinol is useful in preventing recurrence of gouty attacks. It blocks the production of uric acid and decreases the formation of purine. For patients who have difficulty getting rid of uric acid through the kidneys, medications to help the kidneys remove more uric acid from the blood may be prescribed as well. Probenecid is one of the commonly prescribed drugs that increase the removal of uric acid in the urine.
Another serum uric acid-lowering (SUA) medication that has been shown to reduce the risk of occurrence is Uloric (Febuxostat). It lowers uric acid slowly enough to avoid flaring up the gout. The kidney doesn’t process this drug, so it's possible that patients with kidney disease may be able to take it. The liver, however, metabolizes this drug so anyone with a liver problem or who abuses alcohol may not be able to take this drug.
As with all medications, you should report any side effects to your doctor right away. Watch for skin rashes, itching, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or other new symptoms not present before taking the serum uric acid medications.
Sometimes patients experience a flare-up after taking urate-lowering agents. This reaction can come as a surprise, since you expect your pain and swelling to get better. Flares of this kind mean that old deposits of crystals stored in the tissues are being released rather than a sign that new crystals are forming. To combat this, don't stop taking your medication without first checking with your doctor. Getting rid of the old crystals can help protect the joint from further damage.
Doctors seldom treat hyperuricemia without symptoms of gout. However, if hyperuricemia is at least moderately bad over several years, it is more likely to lead to gout. In this case, a doctor may begin treatments to prevent gout. This is called prophylactic treatment.
A program to control uric acid levels and manage symptoms often includes daily colchicine and allopurinol or probenecid (usually both are not taken at the same time) along with dietary restrictions. Regular follow-up with your physician and blood tests to detect serum uric acid concentration that are above the six mg/dL target level are important in maintaining good control and preventing joint erosion.
So far, there are no drug treatments to prevent the formation and deposit of these crystals in the joints. Researchers continue to look for pharmacological and other biologic therapies that might prevent, if not cure, gout for those who suffer from symptomatic outbreaks. Rehabilitation treatment and advice from a physiotherapist at Momentum Health can be of benefit for gout.
Momentum Health provides services for physiotherapy in Calgary.