As anyone who has suffered from gout can tell you, it is an extremely painful condition, which causes significant interference with the activities of daily life. Unfortunately, however, simply treating the pain, associated with gout, is not enough. A good treatment plan for got includes both pain relief for current attacks and prevention of future attacks. One way to prevent attacks is to use allopurinol for gout. Taken once or twice a day after a meal, allopurinol is a prescription drug, usually in the form of a pill that is used to treat gout, because it prevents the substance that causes gout attacks from forming.
How Does It Work?
To understand how using allopurinol for gout can prevent attacks, it is first important to understand how a person develops gout. The cause of gout is higher than normal levels of uric acid in the body, either due to genetics, chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, kidney disease, obesity, certain cancers and other diseases, or as a side effect of taking other medications. Whatever the cause, once uric acid builds up in the joints, it can crystallize. It is these uric acid crystals that cause the swelling, inflammation and pain of gout.
Allopurinol works by inhibiting the enzyme that produces uric acid. If uric acid cannot build up in the joints, it cannot produce the crystals, which lead to so much suffering. Because it acts to stop uric acid from building up, allopurinol is used to prevent gout attacks, not to stop presently occurring attacks. It is rarely used alone in treating gout. To stop the pain of current attacks, pain relievers are also commonly prescribed. In addition, since the effects of allopurinol can take up to a few months to be felt, doctors frequently prescribe other medications to prevent attacks in the interim. While a person is taking allopurinol, the prescribing doctor will monitor the frequency of attacks to determine how the drug is working and to adjust the other medications accordingly. The doctor will also carefully monitor the patient for any possible side effects of allopurinol.
What Are the Side Effects?
As with taking any medication, using allopurinol for gout, carries with it the risk of certain side effects. Some of these can be relatively mild, such as stomach upset, drowsiness or diarrhea. If these side effects become severe or are persistent, the medication may need to be discontinued or the dose may have to be adjusted. Other more serious, though rare, side effects include eye irritation, rash, blood in the urine, painful urination, signs of infection, loss of appetite, swelling of face or mouth, itching and unexplained weight loss. These side effects should immediately be reported to the prescribing physician.
The Bottom Line
If you or someone you know is suffering from gout and would like to know if using allopurinol for gout is the right choice for you, you should contact your physician. Allopurinol is an effective treatment for preventing gout that has been used successfully for many years. It works to prevent the buildup of uric acid that causes gout, and it has helped many sufferers find relief. However, there are risks and side effects, and each patient is different, so you need to contact your doctor to find out if allopurinol is the right treatment for you.