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Gout: Not just for royalty

Traditionally known as the disease of kings because of its association with the overindulgence of rich foods such as meat, seafood and alcohol, gout has been around since the ancient times. In fact, gout is more common than people think.

Dr. Allyson Merbaum, Postgraduate Program Director, Department of Family and Community Medicine at North York General Hospital, sees one or two patients a month with gout. She says lifestyle habits can influence the onset of gout but are not the only reason for the disease.
 
Dr. Allyson Merbaum, Postgraduate Program Director, Department of Family and Community Medicine, North York General Hospital
 
Dr. Allyson Merbaum, Postgraduate Program Director, Department of Family and Community Medicine

Dr. Merbaum explains gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis caused by excess accumulation of uric acid crystals in the body, typically in the joints. More commonly found in men than women, usual symptoms are a hot sensation and redness in the affected joint (most commonly the first toe) within 12 to 24 hours. It can go away on its own within a few days, but often comes back.
 
Gout is a type of imflammatory arthritis.

Image 1: Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis whose symptoms are a hot sensation and redness in the affected joint.

For people who experience gout for the first time, an assessment of eating habits is considered along with a look at all the medications a person is taking and other medical conditions they have. Dr. Merbaum says some medications increase the levels of uric acid causing gout so a change in treatment for other conditions is necessary. Having a condition like chronic kidney disease can also increase the chance of getting gout. “In this case, if the person is having episodes of gout often, a preventative course is considered and daily medication is taken to lower uric acid levels.”

“Eating red meat and seafood and consuming a lot of alcohol can also be the cause of an episode of gout,” says Dr. Merbaum. “If eating habits are the reason for a person's episode, a change to a person's diet is the easiest course of action to take.”

“It is important to seek medical attention if you experience these signs, as gout can sometimes be confused with a more serious medical condition such as septic arthritis,” says Dr. Merbaum.
 
Henry the VIII of England had gout.

Image 2: Henry VIII of England had gout. Learn about other famous people with gout.
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Image1. Photo by James Heilman, MD, 2010, Wikepedia Commons
Image 2. Painting by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/1498–1543), Public Domain, Wikipedia Commons

October 4, 2016

This article first appeared in the
October 2016 issue of The Pulse, North York General Hospital's community newsletter. Subscribe to receive 10 issues per year.

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