Getting a grasp on gout
Despite the increasing prevalence of the affliction, "gout is one of the most preventable and treatable forms of arthritis," Hootman says. For other forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, smoking is the only major modifiable risk factor, she says. But with so many risk factors for gout being tied to lifestyle, "many more are modifiable than other types of arthritis. You can't change your genetics, but you can change your diet," Hootman notes.
Choi explains that keeping weight in check and limiting alcohol, fructose and fatty meat intake can help reduce the risk of getting gout. And when possible, switching to medications that are either neutral or reduce uric acid is best.
Doctors now also have a selection of new drugs that work more quickly and on a wider range of patients. Mueller notes that those who seem to most need medication are those patients who also have kidney problems, but existing pharmaceuticals can be problematic for that population.
Despite advances, plenty of unknowns surround gout, which tends not to draw as much research interest as other metabolic conditions. For instance, Anandarajah points out that it's unclear whether people who have disparate attacks of gout are suffering from joint damage between symptomatic episodes. Greater clarity could better help define a treatment strategy that, rather than always focusing on the immediate pain, works in the long term.