ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Know Your Asthma Triggers
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Birds Don't Miss a Beat
Music Therapy For Prehistoric Man?
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
In Elderly Women, Hip Fractures Often Follow Arm Breaks
Many Americans Fall Short on Their Vitamin D
Vitamin K Doesn't Slow Bone Loss
CANCER
Green Tea May Help Prevent Oral Cancer
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
Minorities Distrust Medical System More
CAREGIVING
Weekend Admission May Be Riskier for GI Bleeding
Study Casts Doubt on Influential Hospital Safety Survey
Caring for Aging Loved Ones Can Be a Catch-22
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Salt Boosts Blood Pressure in High-Risk Patients
COSMETIC
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
Gummy Bears Join Cavity Fight
Gum Disease May Reactivate AIDS Virus
DIABETES
Laughter May Lower Heart Attack Risk in Diabetics
Vitamin K Slows Insulin Resistance in Older Men
Abnormal Heart Rhythm Boosts Death Risk for Diabetics
DIET, NUTRITION
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
6 Million U.S. Kids Lack Enough Vitamin D
Eating Lots Of Vegetables, Olive Oil May Extend Life
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Where You Live May Affect Your Cancer Diagnosis
Rainy Areas in U.S. Show Higher Autism Rates
Traffic Seems to Make Kids' Asthma Worse
EYE CARE, VISION
It's a Whole New Outlook for Cataract Patients
Guard Kids' Eyes Against Long-Term Sun Damage
Statin Drugs Cause Eye Disorders
FITNESS
Want to Stop Cancer? You Can, Experts Say
Vigorous Exercise Can Cut Breast Cancer Risk
Living With Less TV, More Sweat Boosts Weight Loss
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
GENERAL HEALTH
When It Comes to Lifting, the Pros Have Your Back
Music Therapy For Prehistoric Man?
Asparagus May Ease Hangover
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Omega-3, Some Omega-6 Fatty Acids Boost Cardiovascular Health
Polyunsaturated Fats Really May Lower Heart Risk
Coffee Is Generally Heart-Friendly
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Pool Chemicals Raise Kids Allergy, Asthma Risk
Dangerous Toys Still on Store Shelves, Report Finds
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
MEN'S HEALTH
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
MENTAL HEALTH
How to Attack Holiday Stress Head-On
Heal Your Life® Tips for Living Well
Environmental Chemicals May Affect Male Reproduction
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
SENIORS
The Healthy Habits of Centenarians
Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Rheumatoid Arthritis Rising Among U.S. Women
Broccoli May Help Battle Breast Cancer
Active Young Women Need Calcium, Vitamin D
Add your Article

Basketball Star Details His Struggle With Gout

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) -- He's a 15-year veteran of the National Basketball Association, a four-time NBA All-Star, and head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. He's basketball great Maurice Cheeks.

And he's got gout.

"I had no idea what gout was," Cheeks said, describing his first encounter -- at the age of 46 -- with the often-debilitating arthritic condition. "Never heard of it. Never talked to anyone about it, and then I started to find out that there were many other people with this condition."

Cheeks made his remarks at a press conference Thursday in New York City to mark the second annual National Gout Awareness Day, sponsored by the Gout & Uric Acid Education Society (GUAES). The goal is to draw attention to the risks, symptoms, and treatments associated with a condition that strikes between three million and five million adult Americans, and to debunk stereotypes about the so-called "disease of kings."

According to GUAES, gouty arthritis results from a condition known as hyperuricemia -- the build-up of abnormally high levels of uric acid in the blood. A normal waste product that forms from the breakdown of purines found in cells and a wide range of foods, uric acid is usually dissolved in the blood, passed through the kidney, and excreted through urine.

But in excess amounts, sodium urate can crystallize. In some cases, the resulting needle-like formations lodge and jab into joints, bringing about sudden and painful bouts of tenderness, redness, stiffness, and swelling in the big toe, instep, ankle, heel, knee, wrist, finger, or elbow.

People typically describe the pain as akin to the trauma of childbirth or breaking a bone.

"I don't think I can adequately express the pain," Cheeks said.

"I once had a severe ankle sprain, and in order for me to play, they had to wrap it and wrap it and wrap it, because any time I put my foot down, I was not able to play," he added. "But the game was so important. So I played, even though that was probably my worst pain ever. And that pain doesn't even compare to gout."

In February, Cheeks' fourth acute attack of gout triggered inflammation so severe he had to coach several 76ers games with one shoe on and one shoe off. For many people, an attack can turn the mere act of standing and walking into an unmanageable ordeal.

Today, gout is the most common form of arthritis among men over 40. Women also suffer from the condition, but typically after menopause, according to GUAES.

Obesity and the excessive consumption of purine-rich foods -- such as meats, shellfish, and hard liquor and beer -- have long been associated with a risk for gout. And portly figures of history, such as Henry VIII, Benjamin Franklin and Isaac Newton -- all suffered from gout, popularizing the view that it's an illness of the privileged and out-of-shape.

"But [Maurice Cheeks] defies the stereotypes," said Dr. N. Lawrence Edwards, chairman of GUAES, and vice chair of the department of medicine at the University of Florida, who spoke at the press conference.

While diet does play some role in who get gout, genetics is a major factor, with one in four people having a family history of gout, Edwards said.

"There is an assumption that this is a self-inflicted disease," noted Edwards. "That's the stereotype out there. But clearly Coach Cheeks represents none of this. It's an equal opportunity employer. It affects all strata of society."

Edwards agreed that lifestyle changes, such as keeping in shape and watching one's diet, could help somewhat reduce -- though probably not eliminate -- the risk for acute attacks among people with high levels of uric acid.

He stressed the importance of seeing a doctor and getting a uric acid reading for those who've experienced an attack -- with the aim of getting the serum acid level below the danger point of 6.8 mg/dL. And for many patients hovering above the cut-off, chronic daily medications may be the most effective way to fight back, he said.

"If any of you ever had [gout], you would know you would try to do everything possible to try and prevent it," Cheeks said with a wry smile. "Because once it's full-blown, there's not a whole lot you can do."

More information

To learn more, visit the Gout & Uric Acid Education Society.



SOURCES: Maurice Cheeks, head coach, Philadelphia 76ers; N. Lawrence Edwards, M.D., chairman, Gout & Uric Acid Education Society, and vice chair, department of medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville

Last Updated: May 23, 2008

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