LOS ANGELES (CBS) — It is one of the most painful medical conditions anyone can have. Although it used to be thought of as a disease that affects those later in life, things are changing at a rapid pace — gout is now hitting younger generations.
Bob Fratto, 40, is walking now, but that was not always the case.
It started out as a small pain in his big toe. What he though was a sprain, soon became much more.
“The whole toe area was red and inflamed and extremely sensitive to the touch. You couldn’t even pull a sheet over it when you’re in bed and not have very extreme pain,” said Fratto.
Manuel Hernandez, 31, of Whittier thought he twisted his knee until the pain was so unbearable he could not stand on his own.
“I couldn’t even get in the car and get out… It’s painful, you can’t even imagine,” Hernandez said.
Both men were shocked to be diagnosed with an excruciatingly painful kind of arthritis called gout.
Rheumatologist Doctor Robert Harris, the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Arthritis Foundation’s Pacific Region, says that he used to see this is people over 60. That is not the case anymore.
“I’m actually seeing the younger patients in their 30s, 40s, and early 50s with acute attacks of gout,” Dr. Harris said.
More than 2 million men and women are affected by gout. What causes it? Something called uric acid that builds up in the joints and forms crystals, which cause extreme pain and swelling.
It typically affects the large joint of the big toe, but can also affect other areas, including ankles, knees and even hands.
“The pain is so severe that even the weight of a common housefly landing on the big toe during the course of an attack of gout is intolerable,” Dr. Harris said.
So gout is no longer an older-person’s condition or a man’s disease, more women are also being affected by it.
What is causing this rise in younger people with gout? Dr. Harris says the main factors that trigger gout are obesity, high intakes of alcohol, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Medication is a way to manage gout. Changing your diet will also make a difference, especially avoiding red meat and alcohol, something that Fratto now does.
Hernandez has lost 40 pounds since his diagnosis, knowing that the healthier he is, the lower his chances of having a flare up are.
Dr. Harris says gout can be genetic but in younger people the causes are much more related to diet and lifestyle.
Dr. Robert Harris
13203 Hadley Street
Whittier, CA 90601