You Got Gout?
December 02, 2017
Submitted by Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates
What comes to mind when you hear the term “gout?” Most people associate this condition with older, rich, overweight historical figures, most famously, King Henry VIII. In fact, many people today think that gout disappeared along with those pompous kings of long ago, but this is not true! Gout is a rather common condition, and it’s a growing problem.
According to Dr. Hyon Choi, a physician who studies gout at Boston University School of Medicine, “The prevalence of gout more than doubled nationwide between the 1960s and 1990s, and the increases have continued into the 1990s and 2000s.” Experts suspect that climbing rates of obesity and high blood pressure are partly to blame for the rise in gout.
What is gout?
Gout is the second most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common. Gout develops in some people who have high levels of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid comes from the breakdown of substances called purines. Purines are naturally found in your body’s tissues and in many foods. Uric acid normally dissolves in the blood and passes out of the body in urine. In people with gout, the high levels of acid allow needle-like crystals to form in a joint, causing sudden, severe episodes of pain, tenderness, redness, warmth, and swelling.
Unlike most other types of arthritis that develop slowly, an attack of gout happens suddenly, often overnight. The most commonly affected joint is the big toe. Sudden, painful swelling at the base of the big toe is often the first warning sign of gout, but it can affect other joints as well. Gout flares start suddenly and can last days or weeks, followed by long periods of time — weeks, months, or years — without symptoms before another flare begins. Because the pain goes away on its own and another attack may not occur for a long time, gout often goes undiagnosed for years. In addition, the signs and symptoms of gout are not specific and can look like signs and symptoms of other diseases.
Gout has been called the “king’s disease,” because it used to affect only those people who were wealthy enough to indulge in alcohol and other high purine foods like red meat, shellfish, and organ meats. Today, gout primarily affects men over age 45. Postmenopausal women are at risk too, especially if they are obese or have high blood pressure or unhealthy dietary habits, such as drinking large amounts of alcohol or sugary soda. Gout can strike anyone — even athletes and children. You may be surprised to know that baseball player David Wells, former NBA player and coach Maurice Cheeks, actor Jered Leto, comedian and actor Jim Belushi, and former vice president Dick Cheney have all been diagnosed with gout.
If gout is not diagnosed and treated, it not only causes pain and disability, but it can lead to permanent, severe joint damage. Even when the pain is gone, the high level of uric acid is still present, and may be doing damage to the heart, lungs, and kidneys. There is no cure for gout, but it can be effectively treated and managed with medication and self-management strategies.
If you have severe foot pain, that does not mean that you have gout! The foot pain more likely has a different cause, but any pain should not be ignored. If your podiatrist suspects gout, they will refer you to a rheumatologist or internist for further testing and a comprehensive treatment plan.
For more information regarding foot pain or any foot problem, please contact Dr. Lockwood at Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates, at 309-661-9975 or www.heartlandfootandankle.com. Her office is located at 10 Heartland Dr. in Bloomington.
Back to Top