By Robert C. Robinson III, MD
Here it is fellas! Another football season has kicked off and there isn’t a more exciting time of year! For many of us, this is a time of fantasy leagues, long weekend afternoons, late Monday nights, and most importantly the tailgating party. But before you plan the menu for your next game day celebration, there are a few things you may want to consider if you don’t want to get sidelined before the next week’s action.
For a lot of football fans, tailgating and party menus consist of burgers, hot dogs, chips, dips, seafood, nuts, nachos, and beer. But what you may not know is that many of the foods mentioned above significantly increase your risk of developing gout. For those of you who already suffer from this joint throbbing ailment, some of these foods can cause an acute attack of debilitating pain. Now, this is not to say that you can’t enjoy these foods in moderation, but here are a few pointers to ensure that you’re not popping pain pills before halftime is over.
What is gout?
Gout is a painful inflammatory arthritis characterized by joint pain, swelling, and often redness. It is caused by an increase in the uric acid level in the blood, leading to uric acid crystal formation in the joints and tissues. Most often the big toe is the initial joint involved, but other joints may be affected or become involved in recurrent attacks. This crystallization process is often episodic and can be precipitated by many factors. There are several factors that determine your risk for developing gouty arthritis, but the one which you have the most control over is your diet.
What is the treatment for gout?
An acute gout attack is typically treated by decreasing the inflammation that is causing the pain. These medicines are typically anti-inflammatories and can range from the over-the-counter non-steroidal medicines like Ibuprofen, to more powerful prescription medicines like steroids. Your doctor will decide what is safe for you to use for treatment based on the frequency and severity of your gout attacks.
There are some gout medications that are used to prevent the attacks from occurring. These are medications that are taken daily to prevent the buildup of uric acid in the blood, reduce inflammation, or are used daily to increase the elimination of uric acid from the body. Your doctor will decide if prophylactic medication is necessary for you.
How can I prevent it?
It has long been recognized that consuming foods that are high in purines not only increase the risk of having a recurrent gout attack, but also substantially increase the likelihood of developing gout. Some of these foods include beer and other alcoholic drinks, seafood, dried beans, and red meats. Conversely, avoiding foods high in purines or having a diet of foods that are low in purines may lessen the risk. These foods include dairy products, raw fruits and veggies, and chicken.
Who gets gout?
Men are four to five times more likely than women to suffer from gout, and African American men in particular are two to three times more likely to be affected than White men. This is a condition that can affect YOU! So before you plan your next game day gathering, make sure you’re doing everything possible to prevent yourself from being carted off the field.
*Talk to your doctor if you have ever experienced these symptoms of gout: pain, swelling, warmth and/or redness in the great toe or other joint; pain that is so intense in a joint that even light touch is unbearable; recurrent, episodic joint pain lasting for a few days and subsiding of if you already have a diagnosis of gout and are still having attacks, please talk to your doctor about all of your treatment options to get your gout under control.
Gout- Urban Legends
1. Gout is rare. This can’t be further from the truth. An estimated 5 million people are currently living with gout. It is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis in men over age 40.
2. Gout is a “rich man’s” disease. This used to be the perception simply because it was thought to be associated with gluttony, but stats show that all groups are affected by this disease. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms regardless of your socioeconomic status.
3. If left untreated, gout will go away on its own. While each attack may only last a few days, the underlying cause of gout will remain if untreated. This puts you at risk for repeated gout attacks. If joints are subjected to multiple gouty attacks, joint damage and deformity can result. It’s important to treat gout and prevent any further attacks.
4. I don’t have to worry about gout because I don’t overeat. Overeating can be a factor in gout attacks, but there are many other risk factors associated with developing gout.
5. Once a gout attack starts, there’s nothing I can do. This is NOT true. There are medicines you can take at the first signs of a gout flare to stop them from progressing. Talk to your doctor about the best medicine for you to take.
6. I need to lose weight to prevent gout attacks. Yes and No. There is an association with obesity and increased risk of gout attacks, so having a healthy weight is preferred. Weight loss should be under the supervision of a physician though, because rapid weight loss can actually increase uric acid levels in the blood leading to more attacks.
This was printed in the October 9, 2011 - October 22, 2011 edition