Body and Brain
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The obesity crisis in America is not only deadly, but a new report shows it can also be excruciatingly painful.
Gout is an inflammatory arthritis caused by the formation of uric acid in the joints, and experts say the condition is on the rise.
The word "gout" comes from a Latin word that means "dropping of poison into the joints."
"It's very painful. Some would say it's the most pain you've ever had in your life. It's a crippling disease where they're limping and they come in saying they never want to experience anything like that again," said Dr. Dan La, a rheumatologist at Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center.
Dr. La says 10 percent of his practice is from patients suffering from gout.
"Gout is caused by having high levels of uric acid, and uric acid can precipitate in these joints, just like sugar crystals can precipitate in a cup," said La.
Boston University researchers looked at national surveys and found in the past 20 years, gout cases went up more than 1 percent.
The new numbers show 4 percent of the population now suffer from gout. That's 8.3 million adults. And it affects more men than women.
While obesity is a risk factor, doctors say you don't necessarily have to be overweight to suffer from gout.
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"It's not purely just a dietary factor or weight factor because you can have doubt in patients who are vegetarians. You don't have to really eat meat in order to have gout," said La.
But blood levels can rise when people eat shrimp, shellfish, crab, red meat, alcohol and soda.
Carrying extra weight also adds to uric acid build-up. Needle-like crystals disappear when levels are decreased.
Studies show vitamin C, orange juice and cherry juice can help reduce the buildup of uric acid.
La says people can be predisposed but you can prevent bouts with gout with diet modifications, weight loss and regular exercise.
Contrary to what you might think, La says you can't flush uric acid out of your system with water.
Gout attacks usually last about three to five days. Sometimes it can continue for a week.
If you've had gout once, you're more likely to have it again.