Gout is a disease which causes suffering in many, though men seem to be affected more than women. Unfortunately, women are beginning to catch up!
It is not a disease of aging or the immune system but more a failure of our metabolism.
Gout hits with a sudden intense pain and swelling in a joint. The joints of the lower body are primarily attacked, including the big toe, ankle or heel. Typically only one joint is affected at a time. The impacted area often appears red and warm to the touch. Unfortunately, it often strikes in the middle of the night!
There may be a genetic link to gout which is currently being studied.
What is actually happening is a buildup of uric acid crystals from the blood in the connective tissue of the joint, in the space inside the joint or both. The excess uric acid causes inflammation.
Uric acid is produced when purines are broken down. The uric acid which is dissolved and goes into our urine by way of our kidneys. When the kidneys can’t excrete the excess uric acid, it forms crystals which inflame our joints.
Attacks can last three to ten days or longer and usually recur in weeks, months, years, or maybe not at all. In severe cases, repeated attacks of gout may cause damage to the affected joints and loss of mobility.
Gout, a form of arthritis, affects an estimated 840 out of 100,000 people, accounting for about 5% of all cases of arthritis.
Any cause of increased uric acid in the blood known, as hyperuricemia, may trigger an attack.
- There appears to be a genetic factor, which is being studied, as some families seem to suffer more than others
- Excess weight
- Alcohol consumption
- Post menopausal estrogen level changes (just beginning to be studied as a cause)
- High fructose beverages (found in research to increase gout in women by 74%)
Gout Prevention Strategies
- Drink extra fluids, especially water. At least half of your fluids should be water with limit on sweetened beverages. Try to drink 8-16 cups of fluid if you can to help flush out the acid.
- Limit intake of alcohol. Beer may increase symptoms of gout, so talk with your doctor about any alcohol intake if you are suffering from gout.
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Reduce pain of attacks using anti-inflammatory medications as approved by your doctor.
- Protect the kidney from development of uric acid stones formed by excess uric acid in the blood.
- Take prescribed medications for prevention of future attacks, according to your doctor’s orders
- Eat a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Include lean proteins — but don’t overdo them.
- Talk to your doctor if you are taking diuretics to help control blood pressure, since these could raise uric acid levels in your blood and an alternate medication could help you control gout.
- Be mindful of certain purine containing foods in your diet and limit them. These include
- beer and other alcoholic beverages
- sardines in oil
- organ meat (liver, kidneys, sweetbreads)
- legumes (dried beans, peas)
Note that a strict purine free diet is no longer typically recommended due to the efficacy of gout medications as they can limit essential nutrients in the diet.
We hope a few changes will your senior loved one avoid a visit from gout and its pain.
Do you have any tips on treating and controlling gout? We would love to hear your story!