It was once thought that gout, the so-called “disease of kings,” typically spared queens. But in the last 20 years, cases of gout have more than doubled among women. Today, 2 million women – and 6 million men – in the U.S. have this inflammatory form of arthritis that causes joint swelling and telltale pain at the base of the big toe.
If you have ever had back pain, you know how difficult it can be to pinpoint the cause. From bone spurs to overworked muscles to slipped discs, there’s no shortage of ailments that could be at the root of your aching lumbar.
And here’s one more. Over the last 10 years, rheumatologists have documented more cases of gout appearing in the spine. So if you are one of the 8 million Americans with this inflammatory form of arthritis – and you have unexplained back or neck pain, tingling sensations down your arm or leg, or numbness – there’s a small chance the culprit could be your gout.
A swollen, stiff knee might immediately lead you to suspect you have osteoarthritis (OA), but the culprit could also be gout. Like many close relatives, the two conditions share common features. And because they often occur together, you might wonder which one is causing your symptoms.
“It’s definitely possible for people to have both conditions at the same time. They’re the two most common types of arthritis,” says Svetlana Krasnokutsky, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Rheumatology at NYU Langone Health. “They can affect the same joints.”
A new study found that people with gout have a 25 percent greater likelihood of dying prematurely than people without gout. The findings also show that this increased mortality rate has not improved over the past 16 years, unlike the mortality rate for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Gout, which affects more than 4 percent of adults in the United States, is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis. It develops in some people who have high levels of uric acid in the blood. The acid can form needle-like crystals in a joint and cause sudden, severe episodes of pain, tenderness, redness, warmth and swelling. Gout is also associated with other illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.
Continue reading People with Gout at Risk of Premature Death
“Gout is so 18th century. It’s like, why don’t I get scarlet fever and syphilis as well, while I’m about it?” – Columnist and restaurant critic Giles Coren, The Times, September 13, 2014
That’s just one of hundreds of gout jokes, cartoons and snide jabs that have been spied in the media in the last few years — and that doesn’t take into account a rich tradition of gout lampoonery dating back at least to the 18th century (Google “James Gillray”). Then or now, it’s hard to imagine another disease that gets so little respect. And that’s a problem, according to New Zealand researchers. They say the press perpetuates myths about gout that downplay its seriousness and prevent sufferers from getting treatment.
Continue reading Gout Is No Joke: Misinformation & Shaming May Prevent People from Getting Appropriate Care
Americans of Asian and African descent have much higher risk than white and Hispanic Americans of developing rare but severe, sometimes life-threatening skin reactions to the gout drug allopurinol (Zyloprim), according to a new study published recently in Seminars in Arthritis & Rheumatism.
These two skin reactions, called Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), cause flu-like symptoms, a widespread rash, and large portions of the upper layer of skin (including mucus membranes) to blister and detach. They can also damage other major organs. SJS and TENS, which are believed to be different manifestations of the same disorder, are usually caused by a reaction to a drug (including acetaminophen [Tylenol] and certain antibiotics).
Continue reading Severe Skin Reactions to Gout Drug Allopurinol Linked to Race
Most of us know how sugar affects our waistline. Too much of the sweet stuff contributes to obesity, and with it, diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Overdoing it on one type of sugar in particular—the high fructose corn syrup found in sodas and processed foods—can also set off painful gout. Considering that the average American eats 22 to 30 teaspoons of sugar daily, gout is yet another health risk worth noting.
Fructose is a natural sugar found in fruit and honey. High fructose corn syrup is a man-made sweetener produced from corn. It’s composed of 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose. Why is this type of sugar harder on your joints than other forms, like glucose? “Fructose is metabolized differently from glucose,” explains Peter Simkin, MD, emeritus professor of medicine in the University of Washington School of Medicine division of Rheumatology.
As the body breaks down fructose, chemical compounds called purines are released. The breakdown of purines produces uric acid—the substance that forms painful crystals in the joints and causes gout. Within minutes after you drink high fructose corn syrup-sweetened soda, your uric acid levels rise. Continue reading Fructose and Gout: What’s the Link?
Nearly two-thirds of Americans start their day with a cup or more of coffee. Besides its wake-up java jolt effect, coffee could be good for your health. Studies have linked regular coffee consumption with a lower risk for heart disease, some types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes, among other conditions.
Could your morning cup of Joe also help prevent bouts of painful gout? While some evidence suggests this popular beverage might help you avoid joint pain, the caffeine it contains might actually lead to more flare-ups if you already have gout.
Coffee and Gout Prevention
A 2007 study investigated the potential link between coffee intake and gout risk among nearly 46,000 men. The authors found that men who drank four to five cups of coffee a day had a 40 percent lower relative risk of gout compared to men who weren’t coffee drinkers. Decaf coffee also modestly lowered gout risk, but tea didn’t have any effect, suggesting that something other than caffeine is responsible for the effect on gout.
Continue reading Does Coffee Help or Hurt Gout?
Beer and hard liquor have long been known to increase the risk of gout, the most common form of inflammatory arthritis, but according to a 2014 study in The American Journal of Medicine, wine also can contribute to recurrent gout attacks.
Gout occurs when excess uric acid builds up around joints – often in the big toe, but also in the feet, ankles, knees, wrists and elbows – leading to episodes of intense pain, redness and swelling. It affects more than 8 million adults in the United States, and the numbers are rising sharply, due mainly to obesity and other lifestyle factors.
If you are trying to lower your risk of gout or reduce your risk of painful attacks once you have it, one of your best defenses may be to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
“Higher weight is associated with higher uric acid levels in the blood, which therefore increases gout risk,” says Tuhina Neogi, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. Gout occurs when uric acid builds up in the body and then crystallizes in the joints, causing intense and often crippling pain, inflammation, stiffness and swelling.
In 1991, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that men who gained excessive amounts of weight in young adulthood were more likely to develop gout later in life, with the greatest risk occurring with the highest body mass index (BMI) at age 35.