Gout is no longer just a "Rich Man's Disease"

Gout is no longer just a "Rich Man's Disease"

It is known as "Rich Man's Disease," and has plagued some of the greatest men in human history: Christopher Columbus, Benjamin Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt.

Gout was once associated with overconsumption of food and drink. But those affected and the cause of the painful condition have both changed.

It has been more than 40 years since 82-year-old Glen Bonin had his first bout with gout.  "I wondered if someone hit me on the foot with a baseball bat," he said, "that's how bad it hurt."

Bonin's big toe got much bigger and he says the pain kept him from walking.  "It got about twice its regular size and it hurt," he said.

Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh is a family medicine physician with Gamborg and Cavanaugh Family Medicine in Sulphur.  She says gout is a result of uric acid building up in the blood.  "A build-up of uric acid, which is a breakdown product of normal body tissue as it kind of breaks down and regenerates, uric acid builds up," said Dr. Cavanaugh.

If uric acid levels get too high, it deposits into joints, causing a painful inflammatory response.  "If it's not treated and you have recurrent flare-ups over time, it can cause chronic joint damage and arthritis, which can lead to severe disability later," said Dr. Cavanaugh.

Treatment involves anti-inflammatories and steroids, possibly followed by a daily long-term pill to help stabilize uric acid levels.  "I've been taking that since I was 38 years old and it does work," said Bonin.

Family history can increase your risk for developing gout by 20 percent, but it can also be the result of your diet.  "Things like red meat and wine are more common during the holidays because we typically tend to eat those types of food, especially sweet foods, sugar-rich foods," said Dr. Cavanaugh.

Bonin watches what he eats and makes sure he does not skip medication, something he did once that landed him with another gout flare-up.  "I've learned that as long as I take it and as long as I take care of myself," said Bonin, "I don't have it."

Gout is more common in men, women after menopause, and those who drink alcohol. Symptoms usually involve only one or a few joints, like the big toe, knee or ankle.

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