Gout in the Knee

There is no escape when it hits:  sharp, almost debilitating pain in the knee creeping up at night without prior warning.  Could it be arthritis?  Yes, but of a specific kind.

Gouty arthritis, or gout, is a medical condition brought about by an overload of uric acid in the body.  When uric acid crystals lump together in muscle tissues, especially in and around joints, the result would be inflammation, burning sensation, redness and crippling pain. The joints that are most commonly under attack are the hips, the knees, and the big toe.  Gout in the knee is aggravated in obese individuals because the knee is under more stress from the top weight.

Uric acid, in friendly levels, acts as antioxidants and strengthens blood vessel lining.  When purine (natural substances found in plant, animal and human gene’s chemical structure) is metabolized, it breaks down into uric acid.  Defects in metabolism or overconsumption of purine-rich foods could result to uric acid build-up.

When urate crystals build up in the joint fluid (synovial fluid), they result to joint erosion.  At this stage, episodes of gouty attacks become more frequent and prolonged.  If left untreated, crystal deposits could invade other joints and major organs.

Gout, by itself, is hardly fatal, if not excruciatingly painful.  The condition becomes extremely concerning when urate stones form in the kidney and the rest of the urinary tract, blocking the body’s drainage system.  Since kidneys perform a host of functions – removing excess water and other substances from the body, and maintaining the balance of salts – their failure could be fatal.

Not all people with elevated levels of uric acid (hyperuricemia) may develop gout. About 10 percent of the American population has hyperuricemia, but only a small portion of them will eventually develop gout.  The condition occurs nine times more in men than in women, attacking males during adolescence, and peaking at age 75.  In women, gout attacks are usually experienced after menopause.

Gout also occurs more often in regular alcohol drinkers than in non-drinkers – one more reason why we should take it easy with the bottle.

Where impaired metabolism is not the cause of gout, purine-rich diet is most likely the culprit.  Consumption of purine cannot be altogether avoided (because the body needs a certain level of uric acid), but the diet can be altered in people prone to uric acid build up.

Anchovies, brains, gravies, kidneys, liver, sardines, and sweetbreads are chock-full of purine, and their consumption may altogether be limited in gouty patients.  Since purine-rich foods are also high in protein content, consumption of meat, poultry and seafood should likewise be minimized.

Loading up on sweet and sour cherries has been noted to alleviate gout pain.  The sweet variety contains anti-inflammatory compounds and flushes out excess uric acid through urine. The sour kind is rich in antioxidant which helps reduce urate crystals in arteries.

Decreasing the body’s uric acid level should be the over-all goal of diet.  Garlic and ginger do not “spice” up gout attacks.  On the contrary, they prevent frequent attacks by decreasing the body’s level of uric acid.

Bananas and other potassium-rich foods also discourage the circulation of excessive uric acid.  Lack of potassium (an alkali) can lead to increased acidity.

Foods that are loaded with carbohydrates, or dairy products that contain low fats, are recommended for gout sufferers.  Leafy greens and fruits also alleviate symptoms.

All the benefits of diet can be cancelled out by insufficient water intake.  So drink to your health!  Uric acid can be diluted by drinking at least two liters of water a day.  Enough water sloshing around can wash up the kidneys from crystals that may have already developed, so you’ll have one less organ to worry about.