Taking my uric acid-lowering medication regularly.
Knowing I definitely need to avoid eating scallops.
Posted by Chris M, June 20, 2011
I was diagnosed with gout in 1994, so I’ve been living with it for 17 years. Before my diagnosis, I’d had a routine physical that didn’t show any alarming results. My uric acid levels were a little high, but since I hadn’t experienced any pain or discomfort my doctor didn’t think it was anything to worry about. About four months later, I experienced intense pain in my toe, so I immediately went to see my doctor. He explained that some people just have higher uric acid levels and many never develop gout. But for me, my high uric acid along with an unknown trigger had caused my first gout attack.
I didn’t know a thing about gout before I was diagnosed. I thought it was something that only affected old and overweight people, and I had this mental picture of gnarled fingers and fat, swollen toes. Some people also called it the “disease of kings,” but I wasn’t even sure what that meant or how it applied to me. I was 36 years old and only 20 or so pounds overweight. When I told my family about it my father said he had gout, too. I had no idea.
Around the time of my diagnosis (1994) the Internet wasn’t what it is today. I didn’t have the luxury of Googling gout and finding out all about it on health websites. It was hard to get information and separate fact from fiction, and I had a lot of questions.
But then it dawned on me: If my dad could deal with gout, I could, too. My doctor prescribed a medication to help lower my uric acid. He also advised me to avoid shellfish and red meat, and to drink lots of water. With the medication, changes in my diet and motivation to lose weight I saw a huge improvement.
I’ve had four gout attacks, two of which landed me in the emergency room (ER), so I’ve learned my lesson – I need to stick to my medication, even (and especially) when I haven’t had an attack in a while. I remember, not so fondly, one time when my prescription had run out. I was at the beach and I had a big plate of scallops for dinner. Bad idea! I ended up in excruciating pain and had to go to the ER where I was given medication to help.
Five years later, I made same mistake on a business trip. Tempting the hands of fate, I ate scallops, and you guessed it, at three in the morning I had to call the hotel driver to take me to the hospital. It was a hospital in Newark where the ER was full of gunshot victims, and there I was in my suit and tie. I was kicking myself because I knew better.
For me, having gout is manageable. As long as I take my medication and keep my diet in check, I’m fine. I drink a lot of water because it helps flush the uric acid out of my body. I also cut back on beer and red meat, but still enjoy both in moderation.
My advice? If you have a family history of gout and you start having pain, get it checked out. It won’t get better on its own. And know that a diagnosis of gout isn’t the end of the world because it can be managed. Learn about the condition and follow your doctor’s advice, including paying close attention to triggers in your diet. Treatment and lifestyle changes really work and they matter, so stick to it.