Kentucky Man Wants to Know- Can Flying Cause a Gout Flare?
The first time I had a gout attack was right around 2010. I had never had it before, but knew instantly what I was dealing with when the pain hit. My friend and coworker, Dave Spencer, introduced me to gout long before I had it. He is a chronic sufferer and has routine flares. Because of his battles with gout, I was quickly and keenly aware that I was now having my own.
After my first bout with gout (sorry about the unintentional, but obnoxious rhyme scheme), I didn't have it again for nearly a decade. However, since 2019, I have multiple flares a year and I think I have pinpointed the common denominator.
Now, I will admit. I am not a physician (or expert) and what I am telling you may not be the case at all. But work with me. Here's my recent history with gout.
In July of 2019, I had an absolutely horrid kidney stone. It dropped and got stuck four days before I was supposed to leave the country for Bermuda.
I was in an emergency room Monday morning, in an in-patient room at another hospital by Monday evening and on the operating table Tuesday morning. Despite the warnings that I shouldn't go to Bermuda, I did it anyway- despite some crippling bladder spasms that were even worse than the kidney stone pain. Truth be told. Those spasms were the WORST pains I have ever had in my life. I have a strong threshold for pain. I was in the floor of our hotel room in tears. It was ghastly.
Remarkably, I was relatively pain-free in Bermuda. I did still have my stent in and, because of it, had to use the restroom at nearly every public restroom on the islands.
But, overall, the trip was fun and I am glad I bucked the advice and went.
However, just days after flying home, I had a gout relapse that lasted for days. My toe was inflamed, bright red, swollen and throbbing.
I think this may be the culprit.
Here's why. I didn't have gout flare again until I flew to Mexico in December of 2020, to Brazil in March of '21, Kenya in July of 2021, to Miami for a cruise at the end of 2021, to northern Europe in the summer of '22 and to Italy just a couple of weeks ago. It seems that every time I fly a relatively long distance, I have a gout flare a few days after returning home.
Seriously! I got home from Italy last Tuesday, January 3rd. By Saturday, the 7th, I was already having issues with swelling and pain. By that afternoon, I had a full-blown gout attack.
It seems that my issues with gout directly correlate to flying.
But is that possible? I started combing through articles on the internet to see. Here's what I found.
HealthCentral.com has a variety of tips for gout sufferers who are planning to travel. With exercise and motion key to managing gout, they know that spending significant amounts of time on planes can hinder that. I am not a person who ever sits still. That said, when I am on an 8-hour flight, there's not much I can do but sit there. Slow blood circulation combined with already high levels of uric acid can lead to issues.
Keep this in mind when traveling on a plane or train where you may be sitting in a small space with little leg room for an extended period. Wander the aisles to keep your blood circulating. If you are driving, stop frequently to walk and stretch. Also, keep your feet warm with socks and comfortable shoes.
The website GoutAndYou.com agrees with HealthCentral.
Flying on a plane sets the perfect stage for a gout attack. You’re in an enclosed space for hours where it’s cold and barely any legroom. That’s why it’s important to get your body moving.
So, what exactly are we gout sufferers supposed to do? The website suggests this:
Walk along the cabin aisle and stretch your legs. The movement helps keep the circulation going and prevent uric acid from crystallizing.
Here's the thing. I always travel with compression socks (and usually wear them). And, I routinely do exercises in my seat to keep my legs active. However, I am still having gout flares after I get home.
At this point, I am not sure if it's just coincidence or a clear-cut case of cause and effect. I suppose it's possible there are some dietary changes that occur on vacation that could trigger gout. But, I am a guy who has occasional gout despite the fact that I don't really have any of the risk factors for it- including diet.
If you're rowing this boat (or flying in this plane with me), here are some possible causes of gout and treatments for it.