Gout is one of the most common forms of arthritis—along with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and fibromyalgia—which is the leading cause of disability. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention March 2017 Vital Signs, an estimated 54.4 million U.S. adults suffer from arthritis, about one quarter of the population. About eight million of those are affected by gout.
The symptoms of gout, and what make it so disabling, are sudden, severe attacks of pain in the joints, including redness and tenderness. This often occurs at the base of the big toe, and men and people with kidney disease are more susceptible than others. It occurs when high levels of uric acid in the body, including in the bloodstream—called “hyperuricemia”—cause urate crystals to form and accumulate in and around the joints. These crystals then attract and activate white blood cells, leading to gout attacks or “flairs.” This uric acid can also build up in the urinary tract and cause kidney stones.
Once dubbed the “Disease of Kings” because it was thought the cause was overindulgence in rich food and drink, gout now affects just about anyone. Flairs can be triggered by certain foods that are high in purines, which the body breaks down into uric acid. People prone to gout are advised to avoid flairs by cutting back on meat and seafood, beer, sugary drinks, and even asparagus, all which are either high in purines or stimulate the body to produce more uric acid.
Diet is not the only risk factor, though. Family history, high blood pressure, obesity, and the use of certain medications are also thought to contribute. And pain flairs—which torment about 70 percent of gout patients—are not the only issue: chronic gout may cause permanent bone and joint damage.
Today, in addition to dietary and lifestyle changes, the most common treatments for gout flairs include anti-inflammatory drugs or medications and corticosteroids for pain relief, plus prescription medications that reduce the amount of uric acid the body makes. These recommendations and medications help many patients control gout, but they work in varying degrees, and long-term use may cause side effects.
Gout research studies help identify risk factors, determine which medications can treat and prevent gout, and how to reduce the likelihood of those medications causing side effects. Research is critical to improving prevention and treatment, and eventually finding a cure.
Meridien Research is conducting gout-related research studies at our Brooksville, Lakeland and Tampa locations. For more information or to see if you or someone you know may qualify to participate, please contact us today at 1-888-777-8839.