10 Known Triggers Of Gout Attacks

By:    Published: July 5, 2012

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Gout is a type of arthritis that is caused by elevated levels of uric acid in the body, a condition called hyperuricemia, though not everyone with hyperuricemia will develop gout. Although it can happen to anyone, it is more common in men. However, by avoiding the things that trigger gout attacks, people can virtually eliminate the pain and discomfort that accompany this condition.

Over-Strenuous Exercise

There is no doubt that exercise can benefit everyone, including those who have gout. However, experts recommend against overly strenuous exercise for those with gout. There are two reasons for this. The first is that extremely strenuous exercise can lead to dehydration, which is also a gout trigger. Overly strenuous exercise also increases the risk of injury, which is another gout trigger. The best plan is to stick to a moderate exercise program.

Illness Or Infection

It is well known to the medical community that those who have gout and suffer from frequent illnesses or infections experience more gout attacks, but the reason for this remains a mystery. There is evidence that links gout to certain medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, leukemia, lymphoma and psoriasis, but it is clear that additional research is needed to shed more light on this phenomena.

Joint Injury

Because gout affects the joints, most commonly the joints in the big toes, joint injuries can initiate a gout attack. Injured joints seem to make the ideal place for extra uric acid to collect because a slight inflammatory response to an injury, which is exactly what the body is supposed to do to heal, also brings more uric acid to the site. To make things worse, these types of gout attacks tend to last for a longer period of time than others, often several weeks.

Dehydration

Keeping the body hydrated and the kidneys functioning properly goes a long way toward preventing gout attacks. Dehydration leads to decreased urination and excess uric acid is excreted from the body in urine. So when a person becomes dehydrated, the level of uric acid in the body will rise and can lead to a gout attack. For those who are going to be in a situation where dehydration is possible, such as when exercising or when working in the yard, it's important that they have water on hand to stay hydrated.

Surgery

There are a number of factors surrounding surgery that can lead to a gout attack. The first is that people are usually told not to eat or drink for 8-12 hours before surgery. This can cause uric acid levels in the body to rise and bring on a gout attack. The second is the body's own inflammatory response. Surgery produces this response when the body begins to heal itself and it can play a role in gout attacks.

Sudden Weight Loss

Sudden weight loss, often the result of crash dieting or other diets, such as the low-carb, high protein diets, can cause ketone levels in the body to rise. Ketones compete with uric acid to be excreted from the body, often winning out. This can cause excess uric acid to accumulate in the body and increase the likelihood of a gout attack. If someone is trying to lose a few pounds and that person also has gout, a reduced calorie, balanced diet that is low in purines is the best choice to keep uric acid levels under control.

Weight Gain

Being overweight poses a number of health problems for everyone, but for those with gout it also increases the chance for a gout flare. The reason is that the extra weight causes the body to produce extra uric acid and blocks the excretion of uric acid from the body and as the level of uric acid in the body increases, so does the likelihood of gout attacks.

Some Medications

There are certain medications that those with gout are advised not to take, and they don't all require prescriptions. Things like over-the-counter diuretics and aspirin have been shown to increase gout attacks. Regular strength aspirin can drive up the uric acid levels in the body and diuretics flush water from the body, blocking the excretion of uric acid. For those who take a low dose aspirin for their heart or diuretics for blood pressure or other heart concerns, it wouldn't be advisable to stop without a doctor's approval, but instead try and reduce other risk factors for gout attacks.

Stress

Stress causes a number of negative things to happen in the body, and among those is increasing the risk for gout attacks. The exact mechanism that causes this is still a bit of a mystery and there are a number of theories on the subject. One is that stress depletes the body's level of pantothenic acid, also known as B5, which is also necessary in the excretion of uric acid from the body; therefore, some suggest supplementing B5 to avoid this. Others theorize that stress causes people to neglect their health in ways that can contribute to gout attacks, such as drinking alcohol or eating less than healthy foods. Whatever the cause, there is a definite link between stress and gout flares.

Purine-Rich Diet

Purines are a major culprit in gout attacks. So what are purines? They are compounds that are found in certain foods that, when broken down by the body, create uric acid. This is the reason that those who are diagnosed with gout are advised to follow a "gout diet", although with the creation of new gout medications, this diet isn't as restricted as it used to be. Purines are found in animal-based proteins such as red meat, organ meat, some types of fish, meat extracts (such as soups) and in yeast products like beer and baked goods.

Gout can be quite painful, but with proper management and understanding what triggers gout attacks, those afflicted with gout can lead normal, relatively pain free lives.

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