The number of Americans affected by gout is growing, and doctors believe obesity and lack of knowledge about the condition are to blame.
Gout, categorized as acute inflammatory arthritis, causes pain and tenderness in the affected joint. It often forms in a person’s foot – more specifically, a patient’s big toe. Gout in the big toe is known as podagra, and it accounts for roughly 50 percent of all cases of gout.
New data suggests that doctors are treating an increased number of patients suffering from gout, as a recent estimate found that 3.9 percent of Americans are afflicted by the condition.
“There are data suggesting that the incidence of gout in this country has doubled in the last 20 years and probably tripled in the past 40 years, making it by far the most common inflammatory arthritis,” said N. Lawrence Edwards, MD, of the University of Florida.
Why the Surge?
Doctors say the current obesity epidemic is one of the reasons why they are seeing an increased number of gout cases. When a person gains weight, it becomes tougher for their kidneys to flush all the uric acid out of their system. If uric acid isn’t removed from the body, it will settle in the joints and begin to cause damage to the area.
Weight gain may be one of the more common causes of gout, but other diseases that affect the kidneys are also to blame, said Dr. Kenneth S. Saag, of the University of Alabama.
“Historically, gout has been associated with overindulgence, in people who had access to foods of plenty, but now, in fact, gout is a condition of people with chronic illness such as kidney disease and heart disease, and regrettably it’s often relegated to a lesser status given all the other challenges of management,” said Saag.
Address the Real Issue
Another problem facing gout patients is how their primary care physician treats the condition. Oftentimes gout is overlooked, or the severity is underappreciated. This leads some physicians to prescribe NSAIDs or other anti-inflammatory drugs to provide temporary relief. The patient may not be in as much pain while on anti-inflammatory medications, but it doesn’t address the underlying condition. Dr. Silverman believes a person will only find true relief if they address the real problem.
“The goal of gout treatment should be to cure the disease, not mask it,” said Silverman. “Correcting a patient’s diet fixes this problem most of the time. As the article mentioned, the rising obesity rates are the most common cause of gout development. If a person eats right and develops an exercise routine, they’ll see long-term relief much quicker than if they simply tried a uric-lowering medication regimen.”
“Eliminate the obesity, and you’ll drastically lower gout rates,” concluded Silverman.