There’s not very much I remember from my high-school chemistry class, but I remember this: Acid can be a very bad thing. And in this case, I am talking specifically about C5H4N4O3 — more commonly known as uric acid.
Uric acid, in more layman’s terms, is a heterocyclic compound of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen that forms ions and salts known as urates and acid urates, such as ammonium acid urate.
Let me just say that, if this stuff starts gathering in your feet, it’s no fun. The diagnosis is gout, which is a medical condition usually characterized by recurrent attacks of acute inflammatory arthritis — a red, tender, hot, swollen joint, painful to walk on and caused by elevated levels of uric acid in the blood. The uric acid crystallizes, and the crystals deposit in joints, tendons, and surrounding tissues. It’s often most noticeable at night.
All of that is the Wikipedia information, and while that generally sums up the effects of gout, it doesn’t come close to describing what the actual experience is like.
Gout has been my feet’s walking partner for about a year now, and there are two times when it’s most painful — when I walk for extended period of time or when I don’t walk for an extended period of time. What I mean is, if I spend a couple hours walking the sidelines at a Friday night football game or after an evening of bowling, the dogs are howling by the time I get home and remove my shoes; and on those evenings where I get the chance to sit with my feet up and watch television, they are barking pretty good whenever I stand.
Gout gets you coming or going.
Over the year I’ve spoken with several people about gout and received some “can’t miss” advice for treatment. Those suggestions include:
— Wearing special form-fitting socks that, I assumed, were designed to squeeze the uric acid out of my feet and dissipate it into my leg. Didn’t work quite that way.
— East Bladen basketball coach Ken Cross (not a doctor, but played one in my office several months ago), who once suffered with gout himself, suggested taking daily doses of pure black cherry juice. I did. Enjoyed the taste, but had no affect.
— An actual physician put me on allopurinol for three months. Nada.
— My feet have even been prayed over. It was a Sunday, so God was off that day.
I’ve started to simply accept the fact that this gout will be with me from here on out. However, as someone who is seeing the bridge from “old” to “elderly” on the horizon, I’ve also begun researching the disease a little myself. And surprisingly, there is almost something to boast about here.
First of all, only 1 to 2 percent of the Western population is afflicted by gout. That makes me feel a bit special in a weird kind of way.
Second, and more to the special part, gout was historically known as “the disease of kings” or “rich man’s disease.” Now, I’m not sure if all those heterocyclic ingredients were aiming at someone else who actually HAD great financial status and their GPS was off enough to end up hitting me, but if I am to have a disease, I will take one associated with kings and moneymakers.
And just like a king would, it is paramount that I find someone who is willing to give my aching feet a good rubdown from time to time. And I have. She is a close friend who is bent on spoiling me at every turn, despite my efforts to resist. Twenty minutes in her chilly hands and my burning feet are happy, even if I’m not being fed grapes and fanned with a big peacock feather at the same time.
My greatest fear these days is stubbing my toe against a chair leg or bed post or anything hard. I’ve even had nightmares about that. So far, though, all I’ve managed to kick was my cat — accidentally, of course.
It hurt him more than me.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.