Gout: Not Just for Men
Gout has recently been seen more frequently in women, especially women past menopause. Studies show that before menopause, estrogen levels seem to be able to keep uric levels down. Unfortunately, the decrease in estrogen experienced during menopause seems to allow uric levels to increase in women which makes them more susceptible to getting gout. This means that older women are just as likely to get gout as older men.
What is Gout?
Gout is a type of arthritis. It can cause extreme pain and mobility issues. It is caused when the body produces too much uric acid or can't remove it fast enough. When too much uric acid is produced in the body, the condition is called hyperuricaemia.
Normally the body is able to self-regulate uric acid levels. It's usually dissolved in the blood, flushed through the kidneys and then removed from the body through urine.
With gout, the uric acid isn't removed from the body but deposits in the extremities of the body. The white cells try to combat the uric acid intruder which causes inflammation. Inflammation is also caused when the needle like crystals the uric acid creates tear the cartilage and synovial sacks between joints.
Characteristics in Women
The Mayo Clinic reports that gout attacks tend to appear suddenly. Most sufferers experience pain in the joint of the big toe, but it's possible to experience pain in any joint. The pain is sudden and intense and the affected joint becomes hot, red and swollen. The lightest touch, even the weight of a sheet, is often unbearable because the toe is so tender. Gout attacks often happen at night and can wake up the sufferer.
These are the general symptoms and both men and women experience them. But women tend to have less intense pain than men which sometimes leads to misdiagnosis. Women tend to develop large collections of uric acid crystals all over their bodies, and men tend to get large deposits in one area. The large deposit brings on a gout attack. Women can experience the joint pain because of high levels or uric acid, but they may never have the standard gout attack associated with the condition.
Difficulties in Treatment
Many of the treatment methods for gout are straightforward for men. Unfortunately post menopausal women with gout also tend to have a variety of other medical conditions that can make treating gout more difficult or can worsen the condition These other medical conditions include diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and kidney problems. Medications to treat these conditions can make gout worse. For example, many medications used to treat high blood pressure raise uric acid levels and increase the risk of gout. Kidney problems can worsen gout because of the kidney's inability to do the job they're designed to do and that is to remove toxins from the body, including excess levels of uric acid.
Getting Proper Treatment
Women often have difficulty getting proper treatment. If they suspect they may have gout, their physicians may not listen to them because the condition is considered a man's disease. Many doctors won't even look at gout as a possible reason for joint pain in women for the same reason.
Victor Konshin, author of Beating Gout: A Sufferer's Guide to Living Pain Free, says that since women are "at a particularly high risk for poor treatment," they should make sure they ask a lot of questions, study the facts and become a part of their treatment if they want to receive the care they deserve.
Even when gout is finally diagnosed women, women generally end up getting prescribed the wrong medications or the wrong doses according to Konshin. The only way to combat this is through self education and choosing a doctor who is willing to work with you to get you the treatment you need.