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Even Young Men Can Be on the Route to Gout

Even Young Men Can Be on the Route to Gout

Despite what you may have heard, gout is not just a problem in older men. This type of arthritis is actually most common in men aged 30 to 50. It usually affects the big toe, but gout can happen in any joint, including the ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and fingers. The affected joint is usually swollen and may also be red or warm to the touch. And the pain from gout has been described as a throbbing pain, a feeling of the toe being on fire or even being hit with a baseball bat! The severe pain often causes trouble sleeping, as even a bed sheet touching the joint can be unbearable.

Gout is caused by the build-up of uric acid. If these levels get too high, it deposits into joints, causing a painful inflammatory response. After the most intense pain subsides, you may have discomfort or some pain for days or even weeks. If not treated, recurrent flare-ups of gout can cause chronic joint damage and arthritis over time, which can lead to severe disability. Some foods like red meat and shellfish, as well as alcohol – especially beer -- and sugary drinks, can raise uric acid levels. (For locals, that’s your cue to go easy on the crawfish boils and beer). Limiting these types of food and drink, plus maintaining a healthy weight, are your best bets at lowering your risk of gout.

Gout used to be called the “disease of kings,” made infamous by King Henry VIII and other affluent royals who were notorious for overconsuming both food and alcohol, but it can affect anyone. While it’s more common in men, women’s uric acid levels increase after menopause, making them more at risk. A family history increases your risk, as does being overweight or obese. When you're overweight, your body produces more uric acid, plus your kidneys have a harder time eliminating it.

Cases of gout more than doubled over the 20-year period examined in one study, and it’s the most common type of inflammatory arthritis in the world. Researchers have found a connection to other more prevalent health conditions like obesity, hypertension and diabetes.

It can be successfully managed, and treatment usually involves anti-inflammatories and steroids, possibly followed by a daily long-term pill to help stabilize uric acid levels. It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes that can help reduce your risk and prevent recurring issues or flare-ups.