KENILWORTH, N.J., Sept. 27, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- It's a pain known to be so excruciating that the weight of a bed sheet can't even be tolerated. Gout affects millions of Americans every year, yet it's still a widely misunderstood condition.
To provide clarity on the risk factors, symptoms and treatment of this disorder, Dr. Brian Mandell, MD and Professor and Chairman of Academic Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic answers five common questions about gout in the latest video released today on MerckManuals.com. Below are the highlights:
What is it?
Gout is a common and painful disorder that results from deposits of uric acid crystals accumulating in the joints because of high levels of uric acid in the blood. When the crystals accumulate, painful "attacks" of inflammation result in the joints.
"It's as if you were making yourself an iced tea," says Dr. Mandell in the video. "Say you poured sugar into that iced tea and you stirred it up and it goes in perfectly fine, but you add some more in and you stir it up and it settles out in the bottom of that glass. That's what happens with uric acid when it's too high in our blood, it settles out in and around joints."
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of gout include acute sudden onset of severe pain in one or more of the joints. Any joint in the body can be affected by gout, and attacks often occur at night. The joint will become inflamed, red and extremely painful to the touch. One of the most common features of gout is podagra, a sudden pain with redness and swelling in the big toe.
Who is affected?
It is estimated that 6 million adults age 20 and older have experienced gout at some point. It's a genetic disorder that's more common among men, and it usually develops during middle age in men and after menopause in women. Gout is rare in younger people but is often more severe in those who develop the disorder before the age of 30.
Other risk factors include obesity, high intake of beer and liquor, high intake of foods and drinks containing high fructose corn syrup, low intake of dairy, chronic kidney disease and certain medications that could raise the levels of uric acid in the blood.
How is it treated?
The symptoms of gout can be easily treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) or corticosteroids to reduce pain and inflammation. Those experiencing an attack should also rest, ice and immobilize the inflamed area if necessary to rid themselves of the painful symptoms. However, to get to the root of the gout disease and prevent flare ups in the future, patients must take several medications to get rid of the deposits of uric acid crystals. This treatment could take years to fully dissolve the deposits.
Can lifestyle changes reduce the risk?
Yes, making dietary changes can lower the risk of getting gout. Avoid eating too much of any food that is rich in purine (bacon, lamb, scallops, anchovies, etc.), anything containing high levels of high-fructose corn syrup, and drinking liquor and beer, including nonalcoholic beer. As weight gain is considered a risk factor for gout, maintaining a healthy exercise routine is also recommended.
"As far as dietary changes, we generally recommend a healthy, "common sense" diet avoiding excess, and my own advice to people in general is you should avoid drinking cheap wine," said Mandell.
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