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Medical Edge: Gout

Posted at: 10/23/2012 5:47 PM
By: Ellery McCardle

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Imagine waking up in the middle of the night with toe pain so unbearable, even a light bed sheet over it makes it feel worse.    

That's a sign of gout, an extremely, but treatable form of arthritis.
One well-known voice on Rochester's airwaves knows how unbearable the pain is.

"I want to get down 55 total pounds," said Brent Ackerman, operations manager of KROC.

He says he loves feeling lighter on his feet and more energetic. He also likes that his recent weight loss has greatly reduced the chance he'll be limping around station studios in sandals again.

"I apologized to people but said 'I have to do this or I can't even walk,'" said Ackerman.

The sudden inflammation in his big toe turned out to be gout. He describes it as agonizing.

"When I would sleep at night, I couldn't even have a bed sheet on my foot. It was that painful," said Ackerman.

"It's the most common inflammatory arthritis in men.  It's much less common in women, but women catch up after menopause," said Dr. Tim Bongartz, a Mayo Clinic Rheumatologist.

He says gout strikes one to one and a half percent of Americans. It happens when excess uric acid forms crystals in the joints.

"It's like pouring laundry detergent into a cup of water. If you surpass a certain threshold, it will start forming clots. Then your immune system is, you know, trying to get rid of those crystals, mounting a very violent inflammatory response." said Ackerman.

Another cause, obesity.

"About 50 percent of gout is attributable to being overweight," said Bongartz.

Also, alcohol. Bongartz says if you drink two or more beers per day, your risk of getting gout approximately doubles.

He says a gout diagnosis should be confirmed with a blood test. Medications are generally effective when monitored by a doctor to make sure uric acid levels are kept in check.

The risks of developing gout also increases with heavy consumption of sugary soft drinks and red meat.

Dr. Bongartz says many patients with gout also have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and some medications for those conditions are excellent at controlling gout without additional treatments.