According to the American College of Rheumatology, more than 3 million Americans suffer from gout, and the numbers seem to be rising. Gout is a type of arthritis caused by excess uric acid (a normal waste product) collecting in your body and needle‐like urate crystals accumulating in your joints. The result is severe and painful inflammation of your joints.
Gout can happen because either uric acid production increases or, more often, the kidneys effectively cannot remove uric acid from the body. But did you know these surprising facts about gout?
Fact: Gout is sometimes regarded as “the “disease of kings.” Historically, people have incorrectly linked gout to an overindulgence of food and wine that only kings could afford. In truth, gout can affect anyone, and its risk factors vary.
Fact: Men suffer from gout the most. Gout occurs more often in men between 40 and 50 years old, women after menopause, and people with kidney disease. Gout is strongly linked to obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol and triglycerides) and diabetes.
Fact: Certain foods and medicines may lead to gout attacks. These may include:
• Shellfish and red meat
• Excessive alcohol
• Sugary foods and drinks
• Low dose aspirin (This can protect against heart attack and stroke so don’t change medicines without consulting your physician.)
• Some diuretics, or water pills
• Some immunosuppressants used with organ transplants
Fact: Other types of arthritis symptoms can mimic gout. Because of this, proper detection and diagnosis are imperative to better manage the condition. Health care providers suspect gout when a patient has joint swelling and intense pain in one or two joints at first, followed by pain-free times between attacks.
Fact: Uric acid can be normal during an acute attack. During an acute attack of gout, the uric acid level can drop. The gold standard to diagnose gout is aspirating fluid from the joint and visualizing the uric acid crystals under a microscope. Blood tests for gout are only useful approximately two weeks after the acute attack.
There are two targets for treating gout. One is to stop the current acute attack, and the second focuses on long-term care by getting your blood serum uric acid level to around 5.0 and keeping it there. You may need medications to lower elevated blood uric acid levels that may lead to gout. So, discuss gout facts with your doctor today.