Imagine being confined to bed for days at a time because you can’t walk or you are having difficulty resting your elbow on your desk. No one can foresee exactly when a gout attack might occur — it could be the morning of an important work presentation, the day of your son’s wedding or your granddaughter’s dance recital.
Unfortunately, this is a reality for many of the approximately 5 million Americans who live with gout — and experiencing an attack means that elevated levels of uric acid in the blood, called hyperuricemia, promoted formation of uric acid crystals, causing this painful episode.
Gout is a chronic, metabolic condition and is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis in men. It’s also common in post-menopausal women. Gout has been associated with poor health and physical health-related life quality. The disease can progress through stages. As uric acid builds up in the blood, needle-like crystals of uric acid can form and collect in the joints and/or soft tissue and can trigger an acute gout attack marked by intense pain, redness, swelling and heat in the affected joint. Gout attacks can occur in the big toe and other parts of the body, including, but not limited to, insteps, ankles, knees, wrists, elbows and fingers. It is important to know there are management options that can help reduce the risk of recurrence of attacks for people with gout.
“The pain associated with gout attacks can be debilitating and can leave patients fearful of the next attack,” says Dr. Theodore Fields, Fellow of the American College of Physicians and director of Rheumatology Faculty Practice Plan, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York. “Many patients only go to the doctor when they have an attack and don’t realize that with the appropriate management plan, they can aim to lower uric acid levels and keep them in a target range, which can reduce the risk of future gout attacks over time.”
According to Dr. Fields, the following steps can be taken to help manage high uric acid levels and gout:
• Tune in to your body now – Pay attention to your aches and pains, and take note if they don’t seem normal for you. Be sure to schedule regular appointments with your health care provider to discuss your health and, more specifically, your uric acid levels if you have gout. It’s important that you share all of your symptoms and concerns — there’s no need to be embarrassed.
Despite common belief, gout is not caused nor controlled by diet alone. Gout is often linked to a genetic condition. Most people are able to rid their bodies of uric acid. But, if your body produces too much uric acid or has a difficult time getting rid of uric acid, it builds up in your blood. While limiting alcohol and certain foods is important, diet changes alone will not typically be enough to get rid of the buildup of uric acid in the body to reduce your risk of future gout attacks. To help manage your gout, you should discuss a management plan with your health care professional.
• Map out a plan – Experts recognize that a target range for uric acid is below 6 mg/dL in patients with gout. If you have gout, you may want to check with your doctor to test your uric acid during a routine physical, and if your uric acid level is high, to develop a management plan that will help treat your flares and treat the underlying cause. There are two types of medical treatment for gout: medicine that treats the acute symptoms (pain and inflammation) and medicine that treats the underlying cause (high uric acid).
• Seek Support – In addition to working with your doctor, speak with trusted family members and/or friends if you have concerns about your health, and get the support you need. You may even learn that one of your relatives has gout since it’s often linked to a genetic condition. You can also visit www.Gout.com to learn more about hyperuricemia and gout.