Avera Medical Minute AMcK: Early detection key to treating gout effectively

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More than eight million Americans suffer from the chronic flare-ups of gout, but these painful episodes are something no one should have to live with. There are treatments but early detection is critical to helping patients live pain free.

“It was never problematic until I had thyroid surgery four years ago this past September,” said Meredith Johnston from Spencer, Iowa.

Johnston experienced period gout flare-ups from then on.

“The first time I had an episode it was my right elbow was what principally was sore and then my hands were sore, my ankles were sore,” said Johnston.

Johnston was referred to the region’s only gout clinic in Sioux Falls where he met with rheumatologist Dr. Jenna King.

“You can sort of see that there’s uric acid crystals deposited around his big toe here and we would call that a tophaceous deposit -- so it just feels hard like a calcification. Gout is actually an inflammatory arthritis that is caused by the buildup of uric acid in our body. Uric acid comes from different types of food that we eat. They used to call it the ‘King’s Disease.’ So it comes from eating a lot of red meat, a lot of shellfish. It actually comes from high fructose corn syrup, too, which a lot of people don’t know -- so things that are hiding in regular sodas and processed foods,” said Dr. King.

Too much uric acid saturates the blood stream which causes crystals to build up in muscles and joints.

“It causes a lot of pain, redness, swelling in the different joints -- mostly in the toes -- and then into the ankles, knees but can affect any joint in the body,” said Dr. King.

Through medication, a healthy diet and exercise, those uric acid levels can decrease.

“Meredith is actually doing really well now. We actually have him on a good dose of allopurinol and he has been flare-free for the past six months,” said Dr. King.

Early detection is key for treating gout effectively.

“There is relief. You go back to pretty much a normal life once the problem is under control,” said Johnston.

Every third Thursday of the month from 1 to 4 p.m., a dedicated team of physicians, nurses and a clinical pharmacist sees and treats patients with gout. Call 605-322-6625 to schedule an appointment.

For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.