Gout is more common in older adults, particularly men over 40, although it can affect anyone at any age. As we age, our bodies produce more uric acid and are less efficient at excreting it, which can increase the risk of gout. 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.
Older adults may also have other medical conditions that can increase the risk of gouts, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease. In addition, certain medications commonly used by older adults, such as diuretics, can also increase the risk of gout by reducing the body’s ability to excrete uric acid. It seems to grow 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.
Working with your healthcare provider to manage your condition is essential if you are an older adult with gout. This may include lifestyle changes such as a low-purine diet, regular exercise, weight loss if needed, and medications to reduce inflammation and lower uric acid levels. Your healthcare provider can also help you manage other medical conditions contributing to gout.
What is gout – Understanding the fundamentals of this arthritic disease
Gout is a type of arthritis caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints, which leads to inflammation and intense pain. Uric acid is a waste product usually excreted from the body through the kidneys. However, in people with gout, the kidneys may not be able to remove enough uric acid, or the body may produce too much of it.
The buildup of uric acid can cause sharp, needle-like crystals to form in the joints, particularly in the big toe and other joints such as the ankle, knee, wrist, elbow, and fingers. The crystals cause intense pain, swelling, and redness in the affected joint, and the pain can be so severe that even the weight of a bedsheet can cause discomfort. Gout attacks can last several days or weeks and can recur over time.
Factors that can increase the risk of developing gout include a family history of the condition, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, and consuming a diet high in purines, such as red meat, organic meats, seafood, and alcohol. However, lifestyle changes can manage gout, such as a low-purine diet, weight loss, regular exercise, and medications to reduce inflammation and lower uric acid levels.
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 gout attacks 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.
Chronic 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:
The 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, seniors may struggle to get off the bed and continue 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 complete 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 and mental health significantly. 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, caregivers should encourage older people to move about with their help and regularly take them out to socialize and improve their mood. Meeting friends uplift 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 strengthen the body 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 must also teach their seniors various relaxation techniques: meditation and other remedies to keep the pain away. Deep breathing sessions, pain-relieving techniques, and meditation can all help our seniors manage their symptoms during a gout attack. These techniques will ease their pain and 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 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 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.
Gout treatment 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:
The 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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If you are taking care of a loved one with gout, there are several things you can do to help manage their condition and improve their quality of life.
First and foremost, encourage your loved one to follow a healthy lifestyle, including a low-purine diet, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight. You can help them by preparing meals that are low in purines and encouraging them to stay active and engage in appropriate physical activity for their condition.
You can also help your loved one manage their medications and follow their healthcare provider’s instructions for taking them. Ensure they take their medications as prescribed and attend all appointments with their healthcare provider. If your loved one has difficulty remembering to take their medications, consider using pill organizers or setting reminders on their phone.
Finally, provide emotional support to your loved one. Gout can be painful and frustrating, and your loved one may experience anxiety, depression, or isolation. Let them know you are there for them and encourage them to discuss their feelings.
Taking care of a loved one with gout can be challenging, but with the proper support and maintenance, your loved one can manage their condition and maintain a good quality of life.
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