Your finger is red and swollen, and it hurts no matter what you do. Could it be gout?
Although gout is often associated with aging, more people of all ages are being diagnosed with it.
Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that can cause searing pain along with sore, swollen joints. It may occur in “attacks” that last for three to 14 days. It often affects the big toe but also can lodge in fingers, wrists, ankles, elbows, knees and other joints in the body.
An estimated 8 million Americans live with gout, and studies suggest that cases have almost doubled in the past 30 years. Gout is caused by an increase in uric acid in the blood, and the number of people with a high uric acid is on the rise.
Why is it increasing?
“There are number of reasons,” said Adegbenga Bankole, M.D., chief of Carilion Clinic Rheumatology. “The population is aging, and gout is more common as people get older. Also, gout is linked to other conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, psoriasis and obesity—all of which have been on the rise.”
“We are also consuming more food and food additives that can cause gout, like alcohol and high fructose corn syrup,” added Dr. Bankole. “And we’re taking more medicines that increase uric acid in the body, such as hydrochlorothiazide and Lasix.”
What symptoms should people look for? They include:
- Joint swelling
- Severe pain, most often in the small joints of the toes and fingers
- White or yellow nodules on fingertips, elbows or toes
What can you do to help prevent gout? Lose weight, consume more milk and cheese, and cut back on beer and foods with high-fructose corn syrup, Dr. Bankole advised. (A purine called guanosine in beer can lead to a uric acid build-up.)
If gout is left untreated, painful attacks can become more frequent over time. High uric acid levels are also associated with heart disease, strokes and chronic kidney disease.
Medications are available to control gout, but patients are also advised to take steps to improve their diets, exercise more and improve their overall health.
Words to live by, once again.