Your dad makes the same noise every time he gets up from the couch – an emphatic groan and long exhale. It all seemed so dramatic to you, until your 30th birthday when you heard the same sound leaving your body as you got up to cut the cake.
As we age, even healthy people complain about joint pain. Gout is a very common form of inflammatory arthritis, limiting the activity of millions of people every day. We spoke with Edwin Aquino, MD, a rheumatologist at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson to gain a better understanding of how gout can be diagnosed, prevented and treated.
Do I Have Gout?
Dr. Aquino explained the condition. “It is a common type of inflammatory arthritis caused by an excess of uric acid in your joints. As a result, crystals are formed in the blood, attacking the joints. Most of the time gout is caused when the body cannot excrete uric acid and less commonly, when there is an overproduction of it.”
Gout is most common among men and tends to appear between age 30 and 50. For women, gout typically appears after menopause. Dr. Aquino said a common symptom described by patients is “intense pain, redness and swelling of the large joint of the big toes. This is called podagra, and it’s the first complaint I hear about 50% of the time.” He went on to say that patients also mention pain in other joints such as knees, ankles, elbows, wrists and fingers.
What Causes Gout?
To lessen the pain from gout, you must understand what is causing it. Dr. Aquino said, “Patients are more likely to develop symptoms associated with gout, when certain risks factors are present.” These include:
- Eating a diet rich in high-purine food (i.e. sardines, liver, salmon)
- Drinking sodas and other beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup
- Alcohol consumption, especially beer.
Although diet is among the most important contributors in the development of gout, other risk factors can include:
- A family history of gout
- Certain medical conditions (kidney disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hypertension)
- Medications like low-dose aspirin and thiazide diuretics used to treat hypertension.
Fight Gout with Healthy Habits
Gout can be a showstopper in your daily life. In addition to medical treatments, there is a lot you can do to manage the symptoms and severity of your flare-ups with healthy habits.
- Eat a Healthy Diet – Avoid foods with very high purines. Avoid soda and alcohol.
- Get to Know Your Gout – Understanding the circumstances that cause your gout to flare up is important. Pay attention to when your symptoms get worse. What in your routine might have caused things to get worse? Be flexible, andreplace old habits with new ones that will decrease your likelihood for symptoms.
- Exercise – Find low-impact activities that get you moving for 150 minutes per week. Joints in motion tend to stay in motion.
- Manage Your Weight – Reduce pressure on your joints by achieving a healthy weight.
- Take Care of Your Joints – Don’t push your joints past their ability. Avoid activities that cause sore and achy joints. Replace them with low-impact options like swimming, walking and cycling.
Talk to Your Doctor About Treatments
Dr. Aquino divided the treatment of gout into two main stages:
- The first stage treats the acute attacks with medications prescribed to the patient by the physician, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (i.e. ibuprofen, naproxen), corticosteroids or colchicine.
- The second stage is tailored towards lowering the uric acid levels to prevent acute attacks. In addition to the healthy habits listed above, uric acid levels can be lowered with help from medications prescribed by the doctor.
Gout can be managed best when you work together with your doctor. Set up an appointment at bannerhealth.com to discuss your symptoms and make a plan that will have you back on your feet!