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“Go for Six”: Raising Awareness about Gout and Elevated Uric Acid Levels

N. Lawrence Edwards, MD

N. Lawrence Edwards, MD

Though gout is extremely common — affecting even more Americans than Rheumatoid Arthritis — it is a disease that gets very little attention. While gout incidence is on the rise in the U.S., research from the Gout & Uric Acid Education Society has shown that only 10 percent of gout sufferers are being properly treated — and more than one-third have not had their uric acid levels checked within the past five years. This lack of action could be a result of low awareness in general about gout. Consider that:

  • 7 in 10 adults don’t know that gout is a form of arthritis.
  • 3 in 4 don’t know the parts of the body that gout affects.
  • just 1 in 5 thinks that gout is a “serious” condition.
  • half are not aware of the potentially crippling effects of untreated gout.
  • less than 1 in 5 recognizes serious health issues, including kidney disease and cardiovascular disease, as complications of gout and an elevated uric acid level.

Unfortunately, while many people do not recognize gout as a “serious” condition, it can have devastating consequences if left untreated. Gout is caused by an accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints and other tissues. Over time, these crystals can lead to painful attacks of gout, which are characterized by sudden pain, warmth and swelling in one or more joints. While people who have gout know very well that it is painful — with the majority ranking their pain as a nine or 10 on a standard pain scale — they do not always understand that gout is a chronic issue that requires immediate and lifelong treatment, beyond the flare-up. If uric acid levels are not lowered in a person who has gout, flares will persist over time and permanent damage to the joints, bones and tissue can occur. Gout and high levels of uric acid, or hyperuricemia, have also been connected with other serious health problems, including kidney disease, heart disease and diabetes.

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A Message from our Sponsor:  If you or someone you love is living with gout and is struggling to afford out-of-pocket costs for treatment, the HealthWell Foundation may be able to help. Click here to visit HealthWell’s eligibility page.

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Because of these potential risks, it is important for treatment to begin early — even at the initial attack. Once a definitive gout diagnosis is made, steps need to be taken, including lowering uric acid to the recommended level of below 6 mg/dL. For the majority of people, a treatment plan includes taking long-term uric acid-lowering medications to keep uric acid at a healthy level. Uric acid-lowering medication should not be discontinued unless drug side effects occur — and uric acid levels should be monitored every six months to ensure that they are on target. Following a diagnosis, the physician will also recommend other steps that should be taken, including exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight; staying hydrated; and avoiding certain foods that are high in purines (i.e. red meat, seafood and beer) and contain high-fructose corn syrup.

To help raise awareness about the importance of regular monitoring of uric acid levels, the Gout & Uric Acid Education Society recently introduced the new “Go for Six” campaign. The campaign — which draws on the personal experiences of former professional football player and gout sufferer, Anthony “Spice” Adams — encourages those who have or who are at risk for gout to have their uric acid levels checked regularly through a routine blood test, then determine the right treatment plan with their doctor.

As part of the awareness campaign, the Gout & Uric Acid Education Society offers complimentary resources for the general public and medical professionals, including an educational poster and brochure. These materials, along with other gout resources, can be downloaded and ordered via GoutEducation.org.

While gout cannot be cured, it can be better managed, and even completely controlled, through the proper treatment plan. Early diagnosis and ongoing treatment/management is critical to preventing future gout flares and permanent damage.

Do you or someone you love have gout? How are you managing and controlling your symptoms? Let us know in the comments section.

About N. Lawrence Edwards, MD

As Chairman of the Gout & Uric Acid Education Society, Dr. Edwards is committed to educating the public and health care community about gout and the related consequences of hyperuricemia. Dr. Edwards is also a Professor of Medicine for Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology at the University of Florida.

 

 

Be a HealthWell Hero for Patients This Holiday Season

“HealthWell literally saved my life.”

If we told you that the perfect holiday gift could help save a life, you probably wouldn’t believe us. Think again. You’ll make a sick person’s wish come true when you give the gift of health to patients in urgent need of financial assistance by donating to the HealthWell Foundation.

100% of contributions to HealthWell will go directly to help patients access critical, often life-saving services. Your generous gift — whether it’s $10, $25, $50 or more — could make all the difference for people who are struggling to get better. Just ask Sharon, from Detroit, MI.

Feeling drained and not knowing where to turn, Sharon wasn’t sure how she was going to afford the high cost of her lupus medications. Then she discovered HealthWell, which gave her the financial help she desperately needed, just in time. Now Sharon can continue working and her family no longer has to pinch pennies to help her pay for treatments:

“What people sometimes fail to realize is that people with chronic conditions are dependent on prescribed therapies,” Sharon said. “The absence of these treatments means that we can potentially miss out on an enhanced quality of life. That’s a terrible notion to fathom because who doesn’t want to live their best life possible?”

We couldn’t agree more. At HealthWell, we believe no patient – adult or child – should ever go without the treatments they need because they can’t afford it.

When you donate to us for the holidays, you’ll be a hero for patients like Brad from Myrtle Beach, NC.

“Thanks to grants from HealthWell, I can now get the medication I need to keep my disease at bay!”

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Financial assistance from HealthWell enables Brad to get the medication he needs to manage Rheumatoid Arthritis.

The generosity of supporters made it possible for him to afford the care that empowers him to control his severe/aggressive Rheumatoid Arthritis. Without a grant from HealthWell, he says he would live “a life of degrading joints, pain and disfigurement.”

Amy from Whitesburg, GA, was diagnosed in May 2010 with stage IV non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a blood cancer. Because supporters like you were there for her, she’s now living to celebrate her children’s birthdays and watch them grow up.would live “a life of degrading joints, pain and disfigurement.”

“After each of my eight chemo treatments, I received a treatment to boost my white blood cell count,” she said. “Your donation helped pay for those very expensive treatments, and they helped! I NEVER got sick during my treatment phase. I have now been in remission for 14 months!”

Amy, Brad, and Sharon are not alone. Our work is not done.

Folks all over the country – mothers, fathers, children, friends, neighbors and loved ones – are getting sick and watching the bills pile up, with no end in sight. The need is great and patients are counting on you to step up so we can continue to be a lifeline in these tough financial times.

Join us in saying Happy Holidays to patients and families by giving them some relief so they can start the New Year off right.

Categories: Cost-Savings

Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month Underscores Efforts to Identify Causes and Develop Treatments

That’s right. Children get arthritis too. In fact, according to the Arthritis National Research Foundation (ANRF), nearly 300,000 children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis (JA) – one of the most common childhood diseases in the country.

Linda Barlow

Linda Barlow 

When Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) first shows its symptoms in a child’s body, many parents write off swollen joints and fever as the flu, or think a sudden rash might have occurred from an allergic reaction. The symptoms might even recede slightly before showing up again, sometimes delaying diagnosis. 

Because a child’s immune system is not fully formed until about age 18, JRA can be especially virulent, compromising the body’s ability to fight normal diseases and leaving children open to complications that can adversely affect their eyes, bone growth and more.

Both the Arthritis Foundation and the ANRF are on the forefront of combatting this disease by supporting research into causes and treatments.

The ANRF’s Kelly Award is one example of how the organization dedicates part of its research effort toward treatment of JRA. The $75,000 grant is given annually to a researcher focused solely on JRA treatment and cures. For the past two years, the award went to Dr. Altan Ercan at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, whose work has the potential to provide novel targets for new therapies.

Another example is the Arthritis Foundation’s partnership with the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA). Through the partnership, the Foundation is working to create a network of pediatric rheumatologists and a registry of children with the disease, allowing researchers to identify and analyze differences and similarities between patients and their responses to treatment. Ultimately, the registry will help researchers cultivate personalized medicine, the ultimate weapon in battling the disease. The CARRA Registry has been launched at 60 clinical research sites and has enrolled 8,000 patients.

The Arthritis Foundation has also committed to providing more than $1.1 million in funding this year to researchers investigating a wide range of topics, including: 

  • Exploring how environmental and genomic factors might play a role in triggering juvenile arthritis; 
  • Collecting data and evaluating the efficacy of standardized treatment plans; and 
  • Developing and testing a smart phone app to help children cope with pain.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, there is no single test to diagnose JA. A diagnosis is based on a complete medical history and careful medical examination. Evaluation by a specialist and laboratory studies, including blood and urine tests, are often required. Imaging studies including X-rays or MRIs may also be needed to check for signs of joint or organ involvement.

“When joint pain, swelling or stiffness occurs in one or more of your child’s joints for at least six weeks, it’s important not to assume these symptoms are temporary, and to get a proper diagnosis from a pediatric arthritis specialist,” says Arthritis Foundation Vice President of Public Health Policy and Advocacy, Dr. Patience White. “Early medical treatment of juvenile arthritis can prevent serious, permanent damage to your child’s joints and enable her to live an active, full childhood.”  

Management of JA depends on the specific form of the disease but can include:

  • Care by a pediatric rheumatologist.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to control pain and swelling.
  • Corticosteroids such as prednisone to relieve inflammation, taken either orally or injected into inflamed joints.
  • Biologic Response Modifiers (BRMs), such as anti-TNF drugs to inhibit proteins called cytokines, which promote an inflammatory response. These are injected under the skin or given as an infusion into the vein.
  • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs such as methotrexate, often used in conjunction with NSAIDs to treat joint inflammation and reduce the risk of bone and cartilage damage.

One promising therapy in the fight against juvenile arthritis has been recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration – Actemra (tocilizumab) – from Roche. Used to treat polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (PJIA), the medicine can be used in children ages 2 and older. It is also approved for the treatment of active systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (SJIA).

How can organizations like the Arthritis Foundation and the ANRF increase awareness that arthritis happens to children, and build support to advance development of research and therapies?