Gout: "Old" disease still causing pain, from the Harvard Health Letter

To many people, gout sounds like a malady from a Dickens novel. But this joint disease is still very much with us, and is affecting a growing number of Americans. The encouraging news is that almost all cases are treatable, reports the April 2010 issue of the Harvard Health Letter.

Gout is a form of arthritis. It is caused by a buildup of uric acid in the blood. When uric acid crystallizes in the joints, it causes inflammation and pain. Gout is becoming more common partly because of the obesity epidemic. Dietary choices also raise the risk of gout. Consuming a lot of meat, seafood, sugar, and alcohol—especially beer—can trigger attacks of gout. Soda drinkers are also at risk, since there is evidence that fructose, the main sweetener in many sugared beverages, increases uric acid levels in the blood. High blood pressure is another major risk factor, though this gets complicated because diuretics taken to lower blood pressure can also increase uric acid levels.

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