Jerry Nelson: Got gout?
It all began with a tiny twinge in my big toe.
I have reached the age where people will say such things as “You’re looking good!” or “How are you feeling?” or “Geez, I thought you had died.” In short, I have reached the point where “live hard, die young and leave a good-looking corpse” is no longer an option.
Like many of my vintage, I have my share of minor aches and pains. I see this as the price for having lived in two different millennia and seven different decades. Even so, I can humble brag that nothing hurts and everything works.
At least that was the case until a couple of weeks ago.
Within a few hours, that minor toe twinge became a major pain. I’m a guy and thus adhere to the Guy Code of Healthcare which essentially says, “If blood isn’t gushing or a bone isn’t sticking out, it probably isn’t serious. Man up! Walk it off!”
But it’s impossible to walk it off if the pain makes it impossible to walk.
Most alarming was the scarlet coloration that suddenly developed at the base of the toe. We’re talking a redness on par with Rudolph the Reindeer’s nose.
I had secretly worried that something like this might happen. After decades of uneventful health, something was bound to leap out of the underbrush and ambush me. For some reason, it decided to attack my big toe.
One’s imagination can run amok at such times. Maybe I had developed some tragic disorder like toeliosis. Perhaps I would consult with a slew of medical experts and they would say, “We’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that a syndrome is going to be named for you!”
I consulted Doctor Google and the consensus seemed to be gout. This was clearly a misdiagnosis.
My perception was that gout only strikes middle aged guys who have consumed a few too many calories and have a fondness for beer. That doesn’t sound like me at all except for the parts regarding age and the food and the beer.
I decided to show my toe to my friend Matt. I felt like a little kid who was saying, “Look! I’ve got an owie on my toe!”
Matt, who also happens to be my personal physician, examined the afflicted joint. Poking it gently, he asked, “Does this hurt?”
The jolt of pain caused me to shoot out of the chair and ricochet off the ceiling. “Yeah,” I replied, “It’s a little tender.”
“It’s gout,” pronounced Matt in a tone that left no room for doubt.
I was given some diet recommendations, told to take an NSAID and sent home. I asked Google what sins I might have committed to deserve such punishment.
I learned that gout is associated with aging, although the young and the fit aren’t immune. I read about a 27-year-old professional soccer player who was sidelined by a bout of gout. And even vegetarians can get gout.
Diet can affect gout, but it’s mostly caused by things that are beyond one’s control such as the genetics that cause one to be a guy. Gout flagrantly discriminates based on gender, with many more men being hit by the malady than ladies.
Because of its alcohol and high levels of something called purines, beer can trigger a gout flare. I like beer, but not so much that I would trade a cold brewski for searing pain.
Gout sufferers are advised to stay well hydrated. Most of my life has been lived in a state of dehydration. My kidneys run like racehorses, removing fluids at flow rates commonly associated with fire hydrants. Cold water doesn’t even get warm. I’m a busy guy with places to go, things to do, people to meet and immediately forget their names. Time spent in the bathroom is time literally down the drain.
Sugar is bad for gout. I have always eschewed diet drinks with their artificial sweeteners, choosing instead to slurp sodas that contain good, old-fashioned high fructose corn syrup. HFCS is especially bad for gout.
And that “healthy” sports beverage I drank? The second ingredient on its label is sugar.
The good news is that coffee and dairy products are good for gout. That’s extremely fortunate; I can’t imagine starting my day without my morning blast of caffeine. And I have yet to meet a dairy product I don’t like, especially anything from the ice cream group.
As Matt predicted, the gout receded. If it comes back, there are medications to help manage it.
And from now on whenever I see a gimpy guy, I’m going to wonder, “Got gout?”