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Gout Medication Treatments And Their Side Effects

Aug 17, 2007
One of the most effective ways of reducing the symptoms of a gout attack is through medication. Medications are necessary not just to relieve the pain of acute attacks but also to prevent attacks from recurring. Some gout medications can also target high levels of uric acid in the blood, a condition referred to as hyperuricemia.

To successfully treat gout, it is better to consult a doctor than try to alleviate symptoms through self-medication. Tests will be performed to determine the level of uric acid in the body which might include a urine test or taking a sample of fluid from the affected joint. Once the presence of gout is determined, only then will the course of therapy or medications should be discussed.

Some of the most common medications used to treat gout are:

NSAIDs and corticosteroids
Probably the most common medications used to treat gout are NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which are taken orally. As their name implies, NSAIDs function to reduce the swelling in the affected joints and reduce pain.

NSAIDs also block the production of a substance called prostaglandin, which is responsible for causing inflammation and the feeling of pain. Initially, NSAIDs are taken in high doses for as long as symptoms last and medication may continue for about three more days after symptoms have subsided.

It is worth noting, however that while NSAIDs are effective in reducing the inflammation in the joints caused by uric acid crystals, they do not decrease the amount of uric acid found in the body. An NSAID will not, by itself, eliminate uric acid.

Corticosteroids may be prescribed if a patient does not respond to an NSAID or if it is not well tolerated. Corticosteroids are also anti-inflammatory medications and can produce immediate relief if injected directly into the joint. The only drawback is that it cannot be used on a regular basis (i.e., for every attack) because it can cause the weakening of cartilage and promote the deterioration of the joints.

In some cases where symptoms cannot be alleviated or controlled by NSAIDs or corticosteroids, a drug called colchicines may be prescribed during the first 12 hours of a gout attack and is usually taken every hour. It does have side effects, though, such as diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramps and vomiting.

Gout medications such as probenecid and allopurinol may be prescribed to regulate the levels of uric acid in the blood and are often prescribed to older patients. These medications prevent the development of tophi which are chalk-colored lumps found under the skin, usually around joints.

Another medication that has a long history with gout is colchicine. It has been around since the 1800s and can significantly reduce swelling and relieve pain as well as stop future attacks. It has enjoyed a certain staying power because of its effectiveness. However, its use can cause certain side effects such as vomiting, nausea and diarrhea even when used during a short period.

Other than probenecids, colchicines and allopurinol, sulfinpyrazone may also be prescribed for the treatment of tophi and the prevention of further attacks.

Watching the side effects
Gout medications do have their side effects and can range from mild nausea or dizziness to abdominal cramps and headaches. If you do suffer from these, there is no need to grin and bear it just to get relief later. You can talk to your doctor about it and ask for alternatives. By no means should you stop taking your medications without talking to your doctor first.

Supplements and quack medications
Gout sufferers are often advised to take dietary supplements such as Vitamins E, B-complex and folic acid to replenish the body's supply. There are also some very attractive and tempting ads making the rounds in the internet and the papers, promising a 'total cure' or a 'miraculous treatment' for gout.

Before giving in to these ads, it is better to consult with your doctor first. Some of these medications and supplements may not contain harmful ingredients, but they may mix with your current medication and affect your body adversely.

Further research
No cure has yet been discovered for gout, but scientists continue to conduct research on the subject, specifically on the effectiveness of other medications with newer compounds that are safe to use. Studies on the structure of the enzymes involved in breaking down purines inside the body are also being done, to promote further understanding of how these enzymes affect or promote the occurrence of gout.
About the Author
Lee Dobbins writes for http://gout.topicgiant.com where you can learn more about gout treatment and symptoms.
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