This information is for people who have gout and their whānau/family. It explains the things that you and your whānau/family can do to prevent and treat gout.
|How to prevent gout attacks||How to treat gout attacks|
Following the advice will help you to get on top of gout so that:
- the pain of gout goes away
- if you get gout attacks they won’t be as painful
- damage to your joints and kidneys stops
- gout won’t get in the way of you working, being active or enjoying your favourite foods.
Your doctor will help you to make a plan to manage your gout well. Go back to the doctor for regular check-ups to talk about how your gout plan is working.
You might find it helpful to write down what you talk about with the doctor so that you and your whānau/family know what to do. Ask your doctor or nurse to explain anything you are not sure about.
Talk with your whānau/family about how they can support you to get enough exercise and eat foods that will help to prevent gout. Encourage them to get treatment if they have signs of gout because it may run in your family.
The most important things to remember are:
- Gout can damage your joints and your kidneys if it is not treated.
- If you are prescribed a medicine to prevent gout attacks, you must take it every day.
- Watching what you eat and drink will help to prevent gout from causing you pain and damage to your joints and kidneys.
- Make sure that you and your whānau/family know what to do if you have a gout attack.
Gout causes sudden attacks of pain in some joints. It is a type of arthritis.
Gout can affect any joint but the first attack usually affects the big toe or another part of the foot. The joint becomes painful and swollen. The skin over the joint can become red and shiny.
A gout attack usually lasts 7 to 10 days if it is not treated.
If gout is not treated:
- Attacks will happen again and more joints will be affected.
- Lumps can grow on the elbows, hands and feet. The lumps can become sore and swollen and they may cause skin ulcers.
- The natural padding between the bones will start to wear away and the joints will become sore and stiff.
- Kidney stones can form and cause pain and damage to your kidneys.
Gout can damage your joints and your kidneys if it is not treated.
By working together, you, your whānau/family and your doctor can beat gout.
Gout happens when there is too much of a chemical called uric acid in your blood.
It is normal for the body to make uric acid when you eat certain foods. Usually most of the uric acid passes out of your body in your urine.
Uric acid may build up in your blood if you take certain medicines, eat certain foods or have kidney problems.
If there is too much uric acid in your blood, the uric acid turns into crystals. The crystals are sharp and needle-shaped, like tiny pieces of glass.
Crystals in the joints cause the pain and swelling of a gout attack and can damage the natural padding between the bones.
Crystals under the skin cause gouty lumps.
Crystals in the kidneys cause kidney stones and kidney damage.
Gout usually has more than one cause.
Many people inherit gout from their parents or grandparents. Gout may be passed down in the genes.
Having kidney problems can cause gout. If your kidneys are damaged, they are less able to get rid of uric acid from your body.
What you eat and drink is important. Eating lots of meat and shellfish, drinking too much alcohol (especially beer) and being overweight can cause gout.
Some medicines can cause gout. For example, diuretics (also called water pills or fluid tablets), which are used to treat high blood pressure and heart problems, can cause gout.
Whatever the cause, gout can be treated.
There are two ways you can prevent gout attacks.
Take medicines every day
Most people with gout are prescribed a medicine to help prevent gout attacks. Taking your medicines every day will help you keep on top of your gout.
Watch what you eat and drink
Following a few food tips can help you to avoid gout attacks.
Your doctor can check the level of uric acid in your blood by taking a blood sample. It is good to have your uric acid level checked at least once or twice a year.
Ask your doctor or nurse what your uric acid level is. If you keep a record of your uric acid level, you can see if changing your lifestyle and taking medicines are controlling your gout.
Try to keep your uric acid level below 0.36 millimoles per litre (mmol/L). This will help to prevent gout attacks, joint damage and kidney stones and will make your gouty lumps smaller.
To keep your uric acid level below 0.36 you will need to take your medicine (allopurinol or probenecid) every day and follow the food tips on pages 6 and 7. (check still correct)
This graph shows how uric acid levels might change over time in people with gout.
The white line shows the uric acid level of a man with gout who is not taking gout medication regularly or eating and drinking the right foods to manage his gout. His uric acid level keeps going up, putting him in danger of more gout attacks, gouty lumps, kidney problems, and joint damage.
The black line shows the uric acid level of a man who is taking allopurinol every day and who eats and drinks wisely. His uric acid level has dropped to below 0.36 and now he is much less likely to have gout attacks.
There are two main medicines you can take to prevent gout attacks. They are called allopurinol and probenecid. They prevent gout attacks by lowering the level of uric acid in your blood.
When you have started taking one of these medicines you should keep taking it every day, even when you feel well. If you stop taking your medicine, you may have a gout attack.
Your doctor may give you a pain-reliever to take for the first few months that you are taking a medicine to prevent gout attacks. This is because these medicines can sometimes cause gout attacks when you first start taking them.
This table describes some of the most important side effects of allopurinol and probenecid. It is not a complete list of all of the side effects of these medications. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you would like more information about the side effects of allopurinol or probenecid.
|Who it is for||
People who have more than one gout attack each year or who have gouty lumps or kidney stones usually take allopurinol.
People who cannot take allopurinol because of side effects usually take probenecid instead.
Some people take probenecid and allopurinol together to help control their gout.
|What to be careful of||
See your doctor immediately if you get a skin rash while you are taking allopurinol.
Two in every 100 people who take allopurinol will have a skin rash. The rash is usually mild but a small number of people have a serious skin rash.
It is very important to drink at least 6-8 cups of water, juice or milk every day if you are taking probenecid.
Probenecid can cause stones to form in your kidneys if you do not drink enough fluid.
There are other medicines that are funded to prevent gout if allopurinol or probenecid have not worked for you. These medicines are called febuxostat and benzbromarone. Your doctor will be able to advise if these treatments might be an option for you.
Make sure that you and your whānau/family know what to do if you have a gout attack.
Follow these steps to ease the pain.
Go to your doctor for some pain-relieving medicine as soon as you can
- Medicines that you can buy from the pharmacy without a prescription, like aspirin or paracetamol, are not usually strong enough to relieve the pain of a gout attack.
- Do not take medicine prescribed for someone else because it could be dangerous for you. A medicine prescribed for someone else may not be the most suitable one for you.
Protect the part of your body that hurts
- Sit where people won’t bump into you.
- Put a chair beside the bed to hold up the sheets and blankets so that they don’t press on the painful joint.
- If your foot is affected, wear shoes or slippers that don’t hurt it.
Rest, put an ice pack on the painful joint and keep it raised.
Keep taking your medicines to prevent gout attacks.
See your doctor if you don’t get any better after 24 hours.
Medicines can be used to help relieve the pain of a gout attack. These medicines will not prevent joint damage, gouty lumps or skin ulcers.
There are three main types of medicine used to relieve the pain of gout attacks. They are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids and colchicine.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (pronounced en-seds)
NSAIDs should only be used for short periods of time, such as a few days or weeks. This is because they can cause side effects such as indigestion, stomach ulcers, skin rash, and kidney and heart problems.
The most common NSAIDs used for gout are diclofenac and naproxen.
Corticosteroids (pronounced core-tick-o-steer-oids)
Corticosteroids are also called steroids. They are not the same as the steroids that some sportspeople use to build up their muscles.
Corticosteroids can be taken as tablets or an injection.
If you have diabetes, taking corticosteroid tablets can make your diabetes more difficult to control. Talk to your doctor about what you need to do to control your diabetes while you are taking corticosteroid tablets.
The most common corticosteroids used for gout are prednisone, methylprednisolone and triamcinolone.
Colchicine (pronounced col-chi-seen)
Colchicine is usually only used if an NSAID or a corticosteroid is not suitable for you.
It is very important to follow your doctor’s advice about the correct dose of colchicine. Taking too much colchicine can cause serious side effects.
Each tablet contains 0.5 milligrams (mg) of colchicine. Do not take more than 5 tablets in the first 24 hours of a gout attack, or more than 12 tablets in 4 days. If you have kidney or liver problems or you are elderly you should have a lower dose than this. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are not sure how many tablets to take.
Stop taking colchicine immediately if you have stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting.
Here are a few things you can do to make the most of your medicines.
Know the names of your medicines
Most medicines have two names. One is the brand name and the other is the active ingredient name. Make sure you know the active ingredient name of each of your medicines. See the names of common gout medicines.
Know how to take your medicines
Make sure you know how much to take, how often to take it, and when to stop taking your medicine.
Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medicines you are taking
Some medicines can make gout worse. Mixing some medicines can cause side effects. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medicines you are taking, including medicines from your traditional healer, the pharmacy, and the supermarket.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about side effects
All medicines can have side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist what the common side effects of your medicines are. Tell your doctor if you think you might be having a side effect.
Don’t share medicines
Taking medicines prescribed for someone else might be dangerous for you, or might mean you don’t get the right treatment.
Keep medicines out of reach of children
Even small doses of adult medicine can be dangerous for children.
|Type of medicine||Active ingredient name|
|Medicines to prevent gout attacks||allopurinol|
|Medicines to relieve the pain of gout attacks||colchicine|
Following these tips will lower the level of uric acid in your blood, which will help you to avoid gout attacks.
1. Keep to a healthy weight
If you are overweight, losing weight is the most effective treatment for gout. If you are not overweight, try to keep to your healthy weight. Being overweight increases the amount of uric acid in your blood.
Every little bit of weight you lose will help avoid gout attacks.
2. Eat three meals each day
Spread your eating evenly through the day. Starving or feasting can bring on an attack of gout.
3. Choose small servings of meat, chicken and seafood
Enjoy no more than two small servings of meat, chicken, or seafood each day. Each serving can be the size of the palm of your hand.
Meat, chicken and seafood can cause gout attacks because they contain lots of protein. When you digest protein your body produces uric acid.
Try beans, peas, lentils and tofu instead of meat. Beans, peas, lentils and tofu contain less protein than meat and seafood.
4. Enjoy low-fat dairy products every day
Having two servings of low-fat dairy products every day can help protect you against gout.
One serving is one glass of trim milk or one pottle of yoghurt or two slices of low fat cheese or one-third of a cup of cottage cheese.
5. Drink less alcohol
Avoid alcohol if you are having a gout attack.
When you feel well, have no more than two standard drinks each day.
Try to avoid beer because it is more likely to cause gout attacks than other types of alcohol.
One standard drink is 100ml wine (half a small wine glass) or 30ml spirit (1 nip).
6. Drink plenty of water
Try to have at least 6-8 cups of water or other non-alcoholic drinks every day. If you have kidney stones you should drink more.
Avoid sugary drinks because they can cause you to put on weight and can also cause gout attacks.
You may find that there are certain foods that trigger a gout attack for you. Some people find that just drinking one can of beer gives them a gout attack. This is different for everyone. Take note of the foods that cause you to have an attack so you can avoid them or eat less of them.
Arthritis NZ (www.arthritis.org.nz (external link) )
This website gives more information about types of arthritis and treatments.
Best Treatments (www.besttreatments.co.uk (external link) )
This is a website from the United Kingdom that gives reliable information about which treatments work for many different conditions. It contains detailed information about treatments for gout
Last updated: 16 January 2016