It is a common illness of old age, though it was thought to be a disease of the middle-aged population. However, contrary to this popular belief, the incidence of gout is a classical representation of inflammatory arthritis. It seems to increase with each passing year. Several epidemiological studies have represented gout as a disease affecting both sexes. It affects older men the most; typically, adult women develop the condition after menopause.
What is gout – Understanding the fundamentals of this arthritic disease
It is a type of inflammatory arthritis that causes uric acid levels to increase in the blood. This increase can cause uric acid to form needle-like crystals deposited in the joints. Such a sequence of events can cause a sudden onset of pain, followed by tenderness, swelling, and warmth in the affected areas.
Stages of gout
It develops in 4 different stages in the body, from the formation of the crystals to a full-blown episode of the disease. Below are the various stages of gout:
Asymptomatic hyperuricemia – As the name suggests, this stage shows no symptoms. But the uric acid levels keep increasing in the blood. This is because the simultaneous formation of uric acid crystals occurs with increased uric acid levels, which are ready to get deposited in the joints.
An acute attack of gout – once the crystals form, they get ready to attack the joints, which marks the onset of gout. The affected area has inflammation and severe pain, tenderness, and warmth. The pain usually develops at night and increases in the next 8 – 12 hours. The pain and the symptoms should usually subside within a week to 10 days. Many individuals never experience a second attack; however, this is true only for some. Data suggests that 60% of individuals are more likely to experience a second attack within three years.
Interval gout – This signifies the period between the attacks. After an attack, when the pain and other symptoms ease, it is present and not gone. The inflammation levels go down, and the uric acid levels normalize to a certain extent. This further explains that it is the best time to prevent future attacks of gout through lifestyle changes and other remedies. Which can help you lead an everyday life?
Chronic gout – The chronic form of it occurs in individuals whose uric acid levels remain on the higher side for several years together. As a result, there are frequent attacks, and the pain and other symptoms worsen. As a result, the joints can get damaged, gradually affecting the individual’s mobility. By following a proper treatment regime, one can prevent the development of this stage.
The dietary habits of your seniors play a fascinating role in their development of it. Foods rich in purines, such as meat, and seafood (sardines), increase the uric acid content of the blood, leading to gout. Seniors who consume alcohol, such as beer, also are at high risk of suffering from gout. In addition, soft drinks loaded with sugars and fruit juices with high amounts of fructose. It also increases the risk of developing it.
Individuals with a family history of it are at high risk of developing this condition.
Certain medications, such as thiazide diuretics and aspirin in low doses. It can also significantly increase uric acid levels, causing it.
Various chronic disease conditions such as hypertension, kidney diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity all increase the chances of suffering.
Symptoms of gout – a comprehensive guide to understanding the signs of gout in seniors
Our seniors experience a variety of ailments in old age; with the diagnosis of gout, life becomes highly miserable for them, owing to the pain and discomfort the disease brings along. While joint pain is the characteristic feature, there are some other signs you need to know. Here are the symptoms of gout experienced by our elderly:
Feeling of warmth in the affected area
The affected area becomes tender, along with redness
Limited movement, as the joints stiffen
Skin changes can also occur as a result of gout. The skin may itch and may even peel off
Pain accompanied by swelling in the affected joints, such as that of wrists, ankles, hands, and feet
Managing gout and helping older adults during gout attacks and flare-ups would help them feel comfortable. Here are various ways by which caregivers can help their seniors during attacks of gout:
Help your seniors with their daily household chores.
During a gout flare-up period, it may become difficult for your seniors to get off bed and continue with their daily activities. Visiting the doctor would also become a difficulty. In such cases, the caregivers can drive them to the doctor for appointments. They also offer a helping hand in managing their daily household activities.
Assist with meals
Arthritis is all about pain and inflammation, and when we talk about gout, it is the one that makes matters painful for our seniors. So, when a gout attack occurs, cooking becomes difficult, and our seniors often rely on packaged unhealthy foods to fill their tummies. As a result, our seniors often may not eat enough to avoid the pain and hassles of cooking a complete meal. In such a scenario, caregivers should cook a full and nutritious meal for their seniors. Feeding them a proper, well-balanced diet can also help them lose weight.
Give medication on time.
Caregivers can also give their seniors all the medications on time to control the pain and inflammation. Unfortunately, many seniors forget to take their medications on time, causing the pain to increase. Avoid this by effectively handling the task of giving medicines a pee schedule.
Encourage mobility and socializing.
Gout affects not only one’s physical health but also their mental health to a great extent. Pain and inflammation limit their mobility, often restricting them from moving about and socializing at their own will. Such circumstances can be a significant cause of depression among seniors. Therefore, the caregivers should encourage the elderly to move about with their help and regularly take them out to socialize and improve their mood. Meeting friends uplifts their spirit and ma, makes them sappy and diverts their minds far away from the pain.
Help them exercise
Staying active is the key to lessening the pain and, to a certain extent, helps make the body strong enough to handle future gout attacks. But, this is easier said than done, as the pain one experiences can get complicated for one to exercise. First, however, one must exercise in whatever little capacity one can and gradually build stamina. Caregivers can play a significant role in helping seniors exercise to keep them healthy. Advise seniors to undertake exercises that are gentle on their joints and do not cause much exertion.
Teach them relaxation techniques
Caregivers also need to teach their seniors various ways of relaxation techniques: meditation, and other remedies to keep away the pain. Deep breathing sessions, pain-relieving techniques, and meditation can all help our seniors manage their symptoms during a gout attack. These techniques will not only ease their pain but also keep their mind calm so they can focus on activities other than pain.
Make your senior’s living place safe.
Since gout severely affects the joints of seniors. Making them weak and immobile to a certain extent, losing balance and falling can occur pretty often. Therefore, we must make our senior homes fall-proof to avoid injuries and their associated consequences. You must remove any clutter or tripping hazards from the floor and keep it mess-free. The rooms should always be well–lit so that your seniors have enough light while moving around. In the kitchen, place heavyweight items at waist height instead of the top shelves. This would avoid strain on the back and make lifting things easier for seniors.
Treating gout is the utmost necessary to prevent several complications. Gout can severely affect the joints and lead to long-term health problems such as cardiovascular diseases and kidney stones.
Treatment of gout involves pain-relieving medications and therapy to lower uric acid levels in the blood. Such treatment is urate-lowering therapy (ULT), which aims to reduce uric acid levels. Thereby preventing the formation of new urate crystals. The treatment also helps dissolve the existing crystals and slowly eliminate all traces of urate crystals from the body. This is ideally considered a cure for gout. But only if the patients continue with the treatment regularly.
Ways to prevent gout
There are several ways followed along with the treatment, which can substantially help prevent future gout flare-ups. Here are specific methods which can help our seniors avoid attacks of gout:
Diet also plays a significant role in gout development.
Consuming high amounts of seafood and meat can contribute to high uric acid levels in the blood. Therefore, we can ask our seniors to get access to these forms of purine-rich foods to reduce uric acid levels.
Staying well hydrated
It helps in reducing the amount of uric acid in the blood.
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