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Common Causes of Gout: Sometimes They're Not Easy to Avoid

Gout is certainly not a fun condition to have. It's a common rheumatic disease and it counts rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis among its close cousins. Figures show that some 840 people out of 100,000 are afflicted with this disease, most of them men. Just what are the causes of gout, and are there any effective ways to avoid it? More often than not, gout is a result of lifestyle choices, but there are other factors that contribute to the disease's occurrence.


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 A condition called hyperuricemia is one of the causes of gout. This is when the body fails to eliminate excess amounts of uric acid. Some people are born with a genetic metabolic defect in which they not only produce extra uric acid, but they fail to excrete it efficiently as well. This is bad because excessive amounts of uric acid will lead to the formation of uric crystals, which will then become embedded in the joints and the tissue surrounding them. These crystals are also known as tophi, and they are the cause of joint inflammation and pain. Gout usually appears in the joint of the big toe, but it can also become manifest in joints in the ankles, feet, knees, wrists, hands, and elbows. Pictures of a gouty toe almost always show the same characteristics: swelling and redness, and as you can probably imagine, pain.

Gout can also be caused by certain medications, such as thiazide diuretic drugs, which are prescribed for heart failure and hypertension. Figures show that the majority of people who use this kind of drug acquired gout later in life. Other drugs that may contribute to a higher risk for gout are immunosuppressants (such as cyclosporine), low doses of aspirin, and pyrazinamide, an anti-tuberculosis agent. Gout is also strangely related to organ transplantation. Heart and liver transplants can heighten the risk, but perhaps it's a kidney transplant that poses the greater risk, since renal problems can prevent the elimination of uric acid from the body.

A number of health problems have been shown to lead to gout. Certain cancers or diseases involving blood-manufacturing organs are specifically cited, such as lymphoma and leukemia. A skin disease called psoriasis has likewise been linked to the emergence of gout in a number of people. And over-exposure to lead does not only cause birth defects and blood poisoning, it can lead to gout as well. Another all too common health problem among many people, especially those in the West, is obesity. Being overweight can cause not only gout, but other diseases as well, including diabetes, hypertension, and other forms of arthritis.

 
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From obesity, we move to related causes of gout, specifically dietary and food habits. There are many types of food that have large amounts of purines, or substances that play a large role in uric acid production. It's kind of disturbing to find out that most foods that are rich in protein and fat also have a high purine content. But in today's fast-paced mode of life, this is just the kind of food that we're accustomed to eating! To further reduce the risk of acquiring gout, one should also refrain from taking in too much organ meats or sweetbread (including heart, kidney, and liver delicacies). Some seafoods, such as scallops, mackerel, and mussels are also dietary no-no's because these too are rich in purines. Intake of high-fat dairy foods should also be curtailed, including comfort foods like ice cream, butter, and cheese.

Alcoholic beverages should strictly be avoided or at least restricted to an occasional glass or two. This is because alcohol has a high purine concentration and contributes in significant ways to the body's production of uric acid. Not only does it spur the body on to produce more uric acid, but it also affects the ability of the kidneys to flush out excess amounts of this substance. Plus, alcohol is fattening, and we know that surplus weight can also lead to gout.

Though scientists are as yet uncertain about how gout really occurs, they have discovered that the causes of gout can be genetic or environmental in nature, as discussed above. Knowing the things and events that can cause the disease would be a big step in reducing one's risk of acquiring it.

 
 
     
 
 





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