What do Thomas Jefferson, King Henry VIII of England, Samuel Johnson (writer), Alfred Lord Tennyson (poet) and Benjamin Franklin have in common? They all suffered from the extremely painful condition known as gout. In fact, more than 1 million people in the United States alone suffer from attacks of gout.
What is it?
Gout is a life-disrupting form of arthritis that affects the joints and tendons and other tissues. It has a connection to the body's inability to process uric acid, a chemical created when the body breaks down substances called purines, found in many of the foods we eat. An overload of uric acid leads to large, painful deposits in and around joints, as well as decreased kidney function and kidney stones.
Warren Heinsohn of Evansville, Ill., knows how gout can affect a person's life. He recalls, "I just woke up one morning and couldn't walk, it really scared me."
Heinsohn's first experience with gout was sudden and isolated to his left big toe, just like more than 70 percent of gout cases. Other joints commonly affected are the ankles, knees, wrists, fingers and elbows.
"I see patients experiencing pain from gout almost daily, more so in men," said Dr. Ruston Stoltz, a family practitioner.
Not a surprise, considering that men make up 90 percent of gout cases, affecting most over the age of 45, with a peak around age 75.
For women, it usually occurs postmenopause, possibly related to the drop in estrogen. "Some people can manage the pain with over-the-counter pain medications, but with others it comes on quite painfully and quickly," Stoltz said. Attacks are distinguished by rapid onset of pain and discomfort in the joint, reddish coloration, swelling, warmth in the area and extreme tenderness. In fact, the area can be so tender that even a brush of a sheet can be excruciating. Attacks can last only hours or continue for days, and in extreme cases for weeks. "I just used a walker for a few days until the pain and swelling went down ... by the fourth day I was back to normal," said Heinsohn There are several risk factors for the condition: obesity, excessive weight gain, moderate to heavy alcohol intake, high blood pressure and abnormal kidney function. Some medications can elevate uric acid levels, such as diuretics, insulin, some antibiotics, medication for rheumatoid arthritis and low-dose aspirin. Diseases such as leukemia, lymphomas and hemoglobin disorders can also elevate uric levels in the blood, leading to gout. Treatment optionsTreatment options depend on whether it is an acute attack or a chronic condition. Consulting with your physician should be the first step. Pain relief may come with ice packs, pain relievers such as acetaminophen, and nonsteroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
In Warren Heinsohn's case, his doctor recommended that Heinsohn eat fresh cherries or drink cherry juice to help treat his gout attack. Cherries have an enzyme that neutralizes uric acid and are high in anthocyanins, which have high antioxidant properties as well as an anti-inflammatory effect. There are also prescriptions available that will help with the pain and will regulate the uric acid levels. Speak with your physician to discuss your options. There are ways to reduce your chances of experiencing gout. An easy step is to drink at least six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water, fresh juices or herb tea daily, as this will help maintain hydration and in turn level out uric acid. Avoid or limit the following: organ meats, some sea foods, dried beans and peas, fried foods, coffee, rich desserts, beer (and all yeast-type products) and wine. Most important, maintain a balanced, healthy diet and keep your weight under control by reducing fat and caloric intake and getting regular aerobic exercise. Source: Evansville Courier & Press. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. Powered by Yellowbrix.