For professional athletes, pain often comes with the territory. But after years of playing with torn ligaments, strained muscles and aching backs, many retired athletes are caught off guard by the pain that comes from gout.
“My gout attack was like a defensive linebacker I never saw coming. The pain and diagnosis surprised me,” said NFL Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith.
“I had a lot of misconceptions about gout. I thought it was an ‘old man’s disease’, and I thought I could power through the pain on my own. Now I know it’s the most common form of inflammatory arthritis in men over the age of 40, and that I have to work with my doctor to help manage my gout.”
Smith is teaming up with several prominent sports figures for the Champions for Gout Awareness educational campaign, which highlights managing the pain and underlying cause of the chronic condition. Joining Smith are former NBA star Alonzo Mourning, pitching great David Wells, and NASCAR stock car racing crew chief Kevin “Bono” Manion. Together, they are hoping to connect with people to reinforce the importance of the patient/doctor partnership in more actively managing the disease.
As experts in their sports and gout patients themselves, in the coming months they will share their perspective on what they’ve experienced and learned about this form of arthritis.
“Many gout patients suffer from the painful symptoms of acute gout, commonly known as flares, and the underlying chronic condition, which is a buildup of uric acid called hyperuricemia,” said Theodore Fields, MD, director of the Rheumatology Faculty Practice Plan at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
“Like these influential sports figures, many of my patients are surprised by the pain and diagnosis of gout. Whether it is treating and managing gout flares or lowering uric acid levels, I encourage patients to take an active role in their treatment and to talk openly and often with their doctor about their gout.”
Gout is an inflammatory form of arthritis triggered by the crystallization of uric acid in the joints. This buildup can lead to permanent joint damage over time. Attacks can last from several days to weeks, and each subsequent attack becomes more painful. More than 8 million Americans suffer from gout.
While gout is more common in men, women also can suffer from it and are most often affected after menopause. Gout flares are characterized by intense pain, redness, swelling and heat in the affected joints, most commonly in the big toe.
According to the American College of Rheumatology Guidelines for managing gout, a goal in treatment is to reduce the uric acid level in the blood to below 6 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter).
Gout is often managed through diet and lifestyle changes along with medications, as needed, to treat and reduce the risk of gout flares and lower uric acid levels.
The drug allopurinol (Zyloprim) is used to lower urate levels by inhibiting uric acid production, while medications like probenecid are employed to increase uric acid excretion through the kidneys.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen are often used to control the inflammation and pain, along with corticosteroids like prednisone.
“Champions for Gout Awareness gives me the chance to share my gout experience. For me, it’s about educating myself about gout and working closely with my doctor,” said Smith.
“I hope Alonzo, David, Kevin and I can inspire others who live with gout to learn as much as they can about the condition and, most importantly, to work closely with their doctors to manage gout flares as well as working to target healthy uric acid levels.”
The Champions for Gout Awareness campaign is sponsored by Takeda Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures Colcrys (colchicine, USP) for the treatment and prevention of flares associated with gout and Uloric (febuxostat), used to lower blood uric acid levels in adults with gout.