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Gout in old age
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 as a classical representation of inflammatory arthritis. Seems to increase with each passing year. Several epidemiological studies have clearly represented gout to be the disease affecting both the sexes. It affects elderly men the most, and typically adult women develop the disease after menopause.
What is gout – Understanding the fundamentals of this arthritic disease
It is a type of inflammatory arthritis that causes the levels of uric acid to increase in the blood. This increase can cause uric acid to form needle-like crystals that get 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, speaking of the formation of the crystals to a full-blown episode of the disease. Below are the different stages of gout:
Asymptomatic hyperuricemia – As the name suggests, this stage shows no symptoms. But the uric acid levels keep increasing in the blood. With an increase in the uric acid levels, the simultaneous formation of uric acid crystals takes place. 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 mark the onset of gout. There is inflammation, along with severe pain, tenderness, and warmth in the affected area. 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 a span of 3 years.
Interval gout – This signifies the time period between the attacks. After an attack, when the pain and other symptoms ease away, it is very much present and is 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 a normal life?
Chronic gout – The chronic form of it, occurs in individuals whose uric acid levels continue to remain on the higher side for several years together. There are frequent attacks and the pain, as well as other symptoms, worsen. As a result of this, the joints can get damaged, which can gradually affect the mobility of the individual. By following a proper treatment regime, one can prevent the development of this stage.
Risk factors of gout
Understanding the risk factors of it can go a long way in preventing the development of the disease. And also help in properly managing the condition. By knowing the risk factors, as caregivers, you can even help your seniors from future attacks. The risk factors of gout include those conditions, which cause your uric acid levels to shoot up: These factors include the following:
The dietary habits of your seniors play a fascinating role in the development of it. Foods rich in purines such as meat, 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. Soft drinks loaded with sugars, and fruit juices with high amounts of fructose. 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. Can also significantly increase the 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 from it.
Symptoms of gout – a comprehensive guide to understanding the signs of gout in seniors
Our seniors experience a variety of ailments at old age and with the diagnosis of gout, life becomes extremely miserable for them, owing to the pain and discomfort the disease brings along. While pain in the joints is the characteristic feature, there are some other signs which 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
Helping seniors manage
The prevalence of gout has increased to a great extent in the elderly population. According to statistics provided by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the prevalence of gout amongst the elderly population of the US has increased significantly. Gout is a painful type of arthritis, causing intense pain and inflammation in the affected elderly. A gout attack usually occurs at night, which then eventually worsens as time passes by.
Managing gout and helping the elderly people during a gout attack and gout 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 the 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 their 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 which makes matter really painful for our seniors. So, when there is a gout attack, cooking becomes a difficulty and our seniors often rely on packaged unhealthy foods to fill their tummies. In many cases, our seniors may not eat enough to avoid the pain and hassles of cooking a complete meal. In such a scenario, caregivers should, therefore, cook a complete and nutritious meal for their seniors. Feeding them a proper, well-balanced diet, can also help the seniors lose their weight.
Give medication on time
Caregivers can also give their seniors all the medications on time, in order to keep the pain and inflammation under control. Many times, seniors forget to take their medications on time, causing the pain to increase. Avoid this by effectively handle the task of giving medicines as per the schedule.
Encourage mobility and socializing
Gout takes a toll over not only on one’s physical health but also affect their mental health to a great extent. Pain and inflammation, limit their mobility, often restricting them to move about and socialize at their own will. Such circumstances can be a major cause of depression amongst seniors. Therefore, the caregivers should encourage the elderly to move about with their help and regularly take them out. So that they can socialize and improve their mood levels. Meeting friends, not only uplifts their mood, but it also makes them happy and also diverts their mind far away from the pain.
Help them exercise
Staying active is the key to lessen the pain and also to a certain extent helps in making the body strong enough to handle future attacks of gout. But, this is easier said than done, as the pain one experiences can really get difficult for them to exercise. However, one must try and exercise in whatever little capacity they can and gradually build their stamina. The caregivers can play a major role in helping their seniors exercise to keep them healthy. Advise seniors to undertake those exercises that are gentle on their joints and does not cause them much of exertion.
Teach them relaxation techniques
Caregivers also need to teach their seniors the various ways of relaxation techniques. Meditation and other remedies to keep away the pain. Deep breathing sessions, pain-relieving techniques, meditation, can all help our seniors manage their symptoms during a gout attack. These techniques will not only ease their pain but would also keep their mind calm so that they can focus on activities other than pain.
Make your senior’s living place safe
Since gout severely affects the joints of the seniors. Making them weak and immobile to a certain extent, losing balance and falling can occur pretty often. Therefore, in order to avoid injuries and its associated consequences, it is necessary that we make our senior’s home fall-proof. For this, you need to clear off any type of 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 any form of strain on the back, and would make lifting items easier for the seniors.
Treating gout is the utmost necessary to prevent several complications. Gout left untreated can severely affect the joints and can subsequently lead to long term health problems such as cardiovascular diseases as well as kidney stones.
Treatment of gout involves pain-relieving medications, and therapy to lower the levels of uric acid in the blood. Such kinds of therapy are urate-lowering therapy (ULT). Which aims to lower the uric acid levels. Thereby preventing the formation of new urate crystals. The therapy also helps in dissolving the existing crystals. Slowly eliminating all traces of urate crystal from the body. This is ideally considered as a cure for gout. But only if the patients continue with the treatment regularly.
Ways to prevent gout
There are several ways, which, if followed along with the treatment, can substantially help in preventing future gout flare-ups. Here are certain ways, which can help our seniors prevent gout attacks:
Alcohol is one of the potential causes of gout.
Research trials have pointed out a strong association between alcohol consumption and the development of gout. It was also suggested that beer is much more harmful than other types of alcohol such as wine or spirits when we talk of gout. It is therefore suggested that caregivers should not allow their seniors to indulge in alcohol consumption.
Diet also plays a major role in gout development.
Consuming high amounts of seafood as well as meat can contribute to high levels of uric acid in the blood. Therefore, we can ask our seniors to get easy on these forms of purine-rich foods, to bring down the levels of uric acid.
Staying well hydrated
Helps in reducing the amount of uric acid in the blood.
The diagnosis of gout makes life miserable for our elderly loved ones. Dealing with the pain and other symptoms becomes difficult for our elderly. With proper treatment methods and other adjunctive therapies, along with proper love and care, we can surely help our seniors lead a comfortable life. Also, check out this article on thinning skin.