Gout cases are up in the United States

A new study has found that the number of people experiencing gout pain symptoms in the U.S. has risen, leading researchers to look for better treatment options for this growing population.

Currently, it is estimated that 4 percent of the population, or 8.3 million people, have gout, a significantly higher number than 20 years ago. Researchers believe that this rise could be associated with growing obesity rates, since gout has been connected to metabolic syndrome, a set of health issues characterized by obesity, insulin resistance and high blood pressure.

Data showed that men have a greater chance of developing gout than women, as 6 percent of men develop the disorder and only 2 percent of women do. The growing numbers confirm research results compiled over recent decades, showing that the number of people with gout doubled between the 1960s and the 1990s.

"We found that the prevalence of gout and hyperuricemia continue to be substantial in the U.S. adult population," said researcher Hyon Choi, MD, PhD. "Improvements in managing modifiable risk factors, such as obesity and hypertension, could help prevent further escalation of gout and hyperuricemia among Americans."

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), there are two different forms of gout. The first is acute, where pain is primarily limited to one joint, and the second one is chronic, where pain and inflammation is repeatedly present in more than one part of the body. Along with being associated with obesity, gout can also develop in people with diabetes, kidney disease, sickle cell anemia and leukemia.

The NCBI recommends some lifestyle changes that can be made to help avoid gout attacks. The organization offers a list of foods to consider avoiding, as they may bring on symptoms. These include alcohol, anchovies, sardines, oils, herring, organ meat (liver, kidney, and sweetbreads), legumes (dried beans and peas), gravies, mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, cauliflower, consommé, and baking or brewer's yeast.

Although gout is associated with obesity, overweight people who have developed the condition should lose weight slowly rather than with a rapid diet plan. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, quick weight loss plans often suggest that people avoid carbohydrates, but doing so can lead to an increase in gout symptoms.

When the body does not have enough carbs, it cannot completely burn its own fat. This causes substances called ketones to be released into the bloodstream, creating a condition called ketosis. This disorder may increase the levels of uric acid in the blood, one of the main reasons why people develop gout.

Currently, the most common treatments for gout are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
(NSAIDs). However, these medications have been shown to potentially cause other health problems, such as kidney failure and stomach ulcers.

In some cases, prescription painkillers such as oxycodone may be given to ease gout pain. Painkillers carry a high risk of dependence, so they should not be used as the primary treatment for gout. Researchers are currently searching for more safe and natural treatments for this disorder.

First published on: July 29, 2011

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