Announcer: Now to a condition that mainly affects men. Although it was once referred to as the "disease of kings" and "the king of diseases," you don't have to be royalty to suffer from gout and suffer is the right word. Gout is an extremely painful form of arthritis. It has always had the reputation for being the result of too much alcohol and rich food but it can strike at any time and for no obvious reason. The good news for sufferers today is that gout is very treatable. Jeff Williams is 45. Ten years ago, he began to experience severe bouts of pain in his right foot.
Jeff: It came on with noticing the sore joints in the ball of my foot or one of my toes, and I would think, "Well, how did I do that? What did I stub my toe on? How did I hurt myself?" And the intensity of the pain would increase, it would become swollen, very tender, almost unmercifully so.
Announcer: The painful attacks would last up to a week and then go away without treatment.
Jeff: The pain with a full-blown episode can be excruciating.
Announcer: Jeff's rheumatologist is Dr. Tom Bloss of the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.
Dr. Bloss: Gout is a disease caused by excess levels of uric acid in the blood and body fluids which eventually leads to arthritis in the joints. Uric acid is a waste molecule -- it has no useful purpose in the body and so we have to get rid of it like any other waste material. If it builds up, it causes problems.
Announcer: Blood tests can show raised levels of uric acid, but a definite diagnosis of gout is made when fluid from a swollen joint shows the presence of uric crystals.
Jeff: I had an attack in a large enough joint, in my knee, that produced copious amounts of tenderness and swelling and plenty of fluid to aspirate out of the joints.
Announcer: Gout attacks can be triggered by alcohol, dehydration, diuretics, and sudden weight loss. Episodes can also be linked to a diet rich in purines -- those foods include liver, seafood and red meat. Historically gout has been seen as a disease of the affluent -- those who could afford large quantities of meats and red wine. The popular comic image was of an elderly gentleman suffering because of his indulgences. But without modern treatment, gout could have long-term consequences, permanent joint damage, and kidney problems.
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Announcer: Several factors contribute to gout. One is being overweight and the other is having a family history of the disease.
Jeff: My father developed gout, but not until he was in his 60s.
Announcer: Acute episodes of gout are treated with anti-inflammatory drugs. But to stop his system from producing uric acid, Jeff takes Allopurinol every day.
Dr. Bloss: He's doing very well, actually. After being on Allopurinol for several years, the gouty attacks virtually went away.
Announcer: With the gout now under control, Jeff can once again enjoy 18 holes of golf with his doctor and friend.
Jeff: Without the benefit of the medication, I wouldn't be able to play golf. The repetitive motion of swinging the club would certainly bring on episodes that wouldn't make golf even acceptable as an activity. Walking the distance of 18 holes -- again, wouldn't occur without the medication.
Announcer: Too bad there's no medication to improve your golf stroke. If gout runs in your family, you should be aware of the things that can trigger it, like dehydration. And if you do start to get symptoms, look for treatment. Gout is one disease where the pain can be avoided.