If treatment for gout is ignored, it can result in a series of complications, which can be serious. However, if promptly treated, long-term effects of gout are rare.
Gout is caused due to the deposit of monosodium urate crystals in and around the joints and the surrounding soft tissues. This happens because of the low solubility of uric acid in hyperuricemia (excess of uric acid in the blood).
Gout usually attacks the metatarsophalangeal joint at the base of the big toe in one foot. However, it can also develop in other joints namely ankles, knees, wrists, fingers, and elbows. Usually, only one joint is involved.
Most people who suffer from gout never have a second attack in their lifetime. However, if left untreated and without a drastic change in your diet and controlling the causes and the risk factors, it becomes chronic and is associated with significant morbidity and mortality because of intra and extra-articular complications.
Chronic gout is referred to as gouty arthritis and it can lead to a number of serious health complications.
Due to high uric acid levels in the blood, urate nodules form under the skin. They are called tophi. Tophi can appear on the finger, ankle, toe, elbow and the ears.
Tophi are usually not painful but do cause pain during the gout flare-up when they become swollen and inflamed.
Initially, they are small but grow in size over time. If ignored, tophi can become infected and a life-threatening situation can develop.
Loss of mobility and damage to joint
Further and frequent gout attacks can damage your affected joint permanently. Inflammation causes the destruction of the bones and cartilage of the joint. Loss of mobility and joint deformities are irreversible.
Kidney stones and kidney damage
Up to 40 percent of gout patients may develop kidney stones. Due to high uric acid levels in the blood, monosodium urate crystals get deposited in the kidneys, which can result in the stone formation, subsequent kidney damage and kidney failure.
However, if a gout patient follows the necessary lifestyle habits and dietary restrictions, complications of urate or uric acid nephropathy and kidney stone formation are reduced.
Gout and heart disease
Some researched data has linked high uric acid levels to a greater risk of cardiovascular problems and it is an independent risk factor. Why it happens is not yet known.
More often than not, gouty arthritis is accompanied by coronary heart disease, congestive cardiac failure, and high blood pressure. Hyperuricemia is a high-risk factor of mortality due to heart disease.
Cataract and dry eyes
Gout has been seen to cause cataract and dry eyes leading to loss of vision. This is more common in hypertensive men who are above 60 years of age and who take allopurinol. eHealthMe gives more details about this occurrence.
The above long-term side effects of gout can be avoided if the patient follows his treatment and diet regimen religiously.
When diagnosed early and treated promptly, most people recover within 7 to 10 days and live a normal life. Most people have only one attack in their lifetime.
However, medication has to be taken over long-term even after the disappearance of the symptoms. This is necessary to ensure that the crystals that are deposited in the joint have dissolved completely.
If treatment is delayed, some people may develop complications. Treatment, dietary and lifestyle control will help ease the symptoms and reduce the severity and the frequency of gout attacks.