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Sun, Nov. 17

Gout can strike sufferers without warning

Gout is a painful, but controllable, form of arthritis that causes swollen, red, hot and stiff joints. When too much uric acid builds up in the body, sharp uric acid crystals form and irritate the joints, often starting with the big toe. Fingers, wrists, elbows and knees are other common sites for sudden episodes of stiffness, swelling and pain that may last several days.

Men, especially those between 40 and 50 years old, get this condition more often than women. Insulin resistance, blood pressure, weight gain and even beer consumption are risk factors often associated with high levels of uric acid in the bloodstream that can lead to gout.

Diuretics that rid the body of water and other medications can cause people to have elevated levels of uric acid in the blood. Alcohol slows down the removal of uric acid from the body. Occasional aspirin use can increase blood uric acid.

Stressful events and several health conditions are often associated with gout:

• high blood pressure

• underactive thyroid

• diabetes mellitus

• obesity

• poorly functioning kidneys

One of the most painful forms of arthritis, gout accounts for about 5 percent of all arthritis cases and is more controllable than most - if not all - of the 100 forms of arthritis.

Doctors may order a uric acid test to find out if the patient has high levels of uric acid in their bloodstream. Doctors may collect fluid from an inflamed joint to look for the crystals associated with gout. Doctors will try to find out if the patient is making high levels of uric acid or is having trouble eliminating it through the kidneys.

People with gout often respond well to medications that help the body regulate the amount of uric acid in the bloodstream.

"Although people who consume large amounts of organ meats, alcohol, and fatty meats should modify their diets, they don't need to eliminate these completely." says Dr.

Robert Elk, Medical Director for Yavapai County Community Health Services. "Recent studies suggest that wine consumption is not associated with gout. Anyone who thinks they may have gout should consult a physician because there are some very powerful medications that can help."

Sometimes, calcium deposits in cartilage cause crystals symptoms that mimic gout. Known as "pseudogout," this can lead to a chronic disability and joint degeneration if not treated. The risks increase with age and it can also cause symptoms similar to rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.

Family history is a risk factor since genetic factors can contribute to the disorder. Rheumatologists are experts at diagnosing pseudogout.

Free classes help people reduce tobacco use

Take advantage of a sweetheart deal and participate in a series of free evening classes designed to help interested adults learn how to quit or reduce their use of tobacco. Attend one of two introductory evening classes offered in the cafeteria of the Yavapai Regional Medical Center hospital in Prescott. Any adult is welcome to attend from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 18, or Tuesday, Feb. 19, to get started.

For more information, call 442-5572 or look for the schedule on the tobacco education page at www.co.yavapai.az.us.

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