Medical Alerts for Seniors with Gout

Medical Alerts for Seniors with Gout

time icon 7 min read update icon Sept. 28, 2019


You just got back from the doctor’s office. You wanted to report on an uncomfortable and uneven pain in your left big toe, as well as some of the same arthritic pain in your other big toe, ankle, mid-foot and knee. Before you knew it, your physician is talking to you about uric acid and purines and handing you a pamphlet about gout. But what is gout and how can you avoid permanent joint damage and immobility? Read on, especially if you are a man over the age of 40, to see how effectively monitoring the disease with medical technology can keep you active longer.

Gout Overview

In brief, gout is a four-stage arthritic disease that can lead to permanent joint damage due to the buildup of purines, chemicals found in the body and in most meat-based products. Purines, simply put, are the building blocks of DNA and only become an issue when we are unable to break them down in our bodies. When they do get broken down they become uric acid, which, like its name implies, we pass as urine. It is the inability to pass high levels of uric acid that causes gout.

There are four stages of gout, with the earliest stage having few to no symptoms. In the second stage, the body amasses uric acid, which can result in acute joint inflammation. This can progress into stage three, or the intercritical period. Stages two and three can go on and on until one experiences advanced gout, or stage four, wherein the pain never subsides and lumps and bumps remain despite medication.

Gout Impairment

Depending on the stage in which you discover your gout, you may have no limitations, or you may have daily or weekly issues that leave you rendered immobile. Late and advanced stage gout could result in permanent damage to toe, foot, ankle, knee, elbow and shoulder joints. This can have knock-on effects for our overall flexibility and muscular strength; not to mention our quality of life.

When we have joint pain or damage, routine movements, habits and activities can become burdensome. Walking, cooking, reading, holding knitting needles or getting dressed are some of the first activities during which you might notice some limitations. Additional concerns might include gripping a steering wheel, which might place you at home more often than you would like.

Another concern when faced with a diagnosis of gout is that it could be an early indicator of other medical issues like kidney disease, cancer, hypothyroidism or high blood pressure. These conditions have their own impediments and negative impacts on lifestyle, including more trips to the doctor, increased risk of emergency care, prescription drug therapies and hospital treatments.That said, be on the lookout for gout as an early warning to a potentially more troubling condition, and alert your medical providers accordingly.

Acute gout attacks and flare-ups will often present as follows:

  • Difficulty performing day-to-day tasks
  • Trouble with grip strength
  • Problems walking
  • Discomfort standing
  • Inability to get dressed
  • Nerve pain
  • Bunions and buildup near joints
Medical Alert Benefits

Medical alert devices and similar technology might appear to be overkill, especially as one can have acute gout attacks as early as age 40 with more advanced complications not presenting for another ten years. That said, depending upon the stage of your gout, one minor attack does not mean that the next one won’t be more severe or debilitating.

Gout attacks are normally forgotten three to ten days after the initial event, but could still result in permanent and more long-term nerve damage. During that brief, intercritical recovery time, the body may still not be at maximum function, flexibility or muscular strength, which could result in a spill or a slip whilst operating a motor vehicle. Having a medical alert system or an app on a phone could very quickly put the older person in touch with a first responder able to assist them or get them home safely should they experience an episode while out and about.

Gout symptoms:

  • Pain in the big toe(s)
  • Pain and swelling of joints at night
  • Red and swollen joints
  • Joints that are warm to the touch
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Malaise
  • Fatigue
Safety Without Medical Alerts

Of course, medical alert devices and systems can be cost-prohibitive or difficult to maintain with various batteries and recharging cycles. If you choose not to use them, there are still steps that you or a loved one can take to monitor and maintain safety in the event of an acute gout attack.

  • Know your early warning signs:  Toes and joints affected by gout may begin to tingle just before a painful episode. Conversely, your ankles or knees might tingle, feel numb or become suddenly rigid coming out of an intercritical stage. Knowing your symptoms can mean not getting behind the wheel, and instead finding a comfortable place to rest while riding out the pain.
  • Avoid known irritants: Alcohol, meat, shellfish, seafood and sugary drinks have been found to increase one’s uric acid levels. Eating them often may consequently result in a painful gout episode.
  • Consider fast-acting medications:  In the event of a particularly bad attack, consider having non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs at the ready such as ibuprofen. Alternatively, a local injection of corticosteriod may be more effective if the attack is more localized. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the best pain relief options for your individual health.
Gout Precautions
  • Manage and monitor your diet: Carefully reducing your intake of known trigger foods might help prevent sudden attacks as well as reduce your risk of diabetes.
  • Exercise: Like diet, partnering with a healthcare professional to modify your current exercise regime may not only prevent gout flare-ups, but also serve as a sort of physical therapy to loosen once-rigid joints and get you your freedom back!
  • Have your doctor run your labs: Your primary physician can check for high levels of uric acid and draw fluid from those painful toe joints to check for uric acid buildups and crystals in the area of concern.
Gout Medical Alerts Conclusion

Gout, uric acid and purines can all seem overwhelming at first flush. There are dietary concerns and food triggers to consider as well as various management and mitigation options. Taking medication and knowing your symptoms is a great start to avoiding debilitating short-term and long-term pain, but what if you’re caught off-guard? Or worse, struck with an attack while away from home or without your phone?

This is when a medical alert system or personal emergency device could put you in touch with a nurse, family member or friend that can help. When walking, performing daily chores or simply maintaining a steady grip become potentially dangerous activities, consider investing in a medical alert device that can respond to your sudden immobility and increase your willingness to venture out whenever you want to. 

Kate Papenberg - Senior Advisor

Kate is senior researcher with Grandfolk® providing in-depth product and service reviews to empower senior buying decisions.