Courtesy Steve Reed, Positive Images Photography
Lex Leonard’s feet had bothered her since her 20s. As a former junior high school teacher—and then social worker—Leonard spent a lot of time on her feet. When the pain spread to her ankles, knees, and hands, she knew something was seriously wrong. Finally, in her late 50s, Leonard got a diagnosis—gout. Although it took time, the now 68-year-old has found a way to live with her condition and its vicious symptoms.
When the pain first intensified, Leonard took action: “I went to a podiatrist and insisted that I had broken a bone in my foot. After x-rays, he diagnosed me with gout.” This form of arthritis is triggered by the buildup of uric acid (yep, the precursor to urine). When the kidneys struggle to process the acids, high levels can lead to the formation of uric acid crystals in the joints, and the pain can be sudden and severe. Gout affects 8.3 million Americans; it’s on the rise due to the obesity epidemic and increasing numbers of people with high blood pressure—two conditions that stress the kidneys. Watch out for the 8 silent signs of gout you might ignore.
Leonard’s podiatrist prescribed a drug called Colcrys that helps reduce swelling and the crystals. “I took it three times a day—but the pain just kept getting worse.” During one three-week flareup of gout, Leonard had to go the emergency room. “I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t sleep—even laying under a sheet at night felt too painful,” Leonard tells Reader’s Digest.
When Leonard went to see her primary care physician about some lab results, her doctor noted Leonard’s poor kidney function and referred her to a nephrologist. After taking a look at Leonard’s hands, the specialist immediately recommended a medication called Krystexxa, a drug that would lower her uric acid levels. “At that point, my hands were red and swollen, and I couldn’t bend my fingers.”
Courtesy Lex Leonard
Leonard also has type 2 diabetes, another condition that raises gout risk. Diet can also play a role: Gout tends to strike people who eat a lot of steak, organ meats, and seafood; drinking sugary drinks and alcohol (especially beer) can also raise uric acid. Along with obesity and high blood pressure, other risk factors can include certain medications, a family history, recent trauma, getting older, and being male.
Leonard’s infusions of Krystexxa quickly lowered her uric acid levels and began dissolving uric acid crystals in the body. “I noticed a drastic difference after my first infusion series. My uric acid level went from 11 to .02.” (A normal level is 2.4 to 6). The drug made a dramatic difference in her activity levels—before treatment, just getting around the house could be agony. “I can now do yoga and go bowling. I’ve never been more active than I am today.” Don’t miss the 13 natural gout remedies for pain and swelling you can try.
Leonard is getting her second infusion series of the drug and has some words of advice for others suffering from what she calls an “insidious disease”: “There is no cure, but you can manage it. I wish I had caught mine earlier—I think I would be in much better shape now if I had.”
Since starting the drug in December 2017, Leonard says she has only had one minor return of her joint pain. She is delighted her grandchildren have noticed the difference in her physical ability. “My grandchildren come over and say, ‘Grandma, you can walk again.'” Next, find out the 34 things you need to know about arthritis.