Q: Both of my parents suffered terribly from gout. How can I avoid getting it?
A: You are right to be concerned. While anyone can get gout—a painful type of arthritis that typically affects the big toe, mid-foot, ankle and/or knee joints—this condition does tend to run in families. A key to gout is uric acid, which is produced from the natural breakdown of foods. Elevated blood levels of uric acid can lead to the formation of crystals in the joints and surrounding tissues, triggering inflammation and excruciating pain. Though men are at higher risk for gout, women develop this potentially disabling condition, too, especially after menopause. One recent study found that the incidence of gout among women has doubled in the past two decades.
What to do: Have your doctor test your blood level of uric acid. If it is over 6 mg/dL, you are at increased risk of developing gout, especially given your family history. In that case, you would be wise to take preventive action…
Source: Theodore R. Fields, MD, is a professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and an attending physician and director of the Rheumatology Faculty Practice Plan at the Hospital for Special Surgery, both in New York City.