Kidney Walk plants seeds of awareness of kidney disease and gout

Mar. 25—For Ewa Beach resident Ashley Teixeira, 43, living with gout as well as kidney disease is a daily challenge. But the kindergarten teacher still chooses to maintain a positive outlook.

For Ewa Beach resident Ashley Teixeira, 43, living with gout as well as kidney disease is a daily challenge. But the kindergarten teacher still chooses to maintain a positive outlook.

She also wants to pass along the lessons she has learned on her journey, from her diagnosis with gouty arthritis, which runs in her family, to her search for a good doctor and effective treatment.

Most of all, Teixeira would like others to be aware of gout's link to chronic kidney disease, which she was just diagnosed with a few years ago, and to know how important it is to seek early care from a specialist.

"Gout can be debilitating, " she said. "It's incredibly painful when you have a gout attack. ... It can change your life long term, so be careful and educate yourself as much as you can."

Teixeira will be on hand at a pop-up garden that serves as a metaphor for the link between the two diseases at today's at Kapiolani Park.

"Gout and chronic kidney disease are closely linked, so if you have gout you're at higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease or worsening chronic kidney disease, " said Gina Granat, senior manager for biotech company Horizon Therapeutics, sponsor of the walk. "And if you have chronic kidney disease, you're at a higher risk of developing gout because your kidneys aren't doing as good of a job as they should be at excreting uric acid. High uric acid is what causes gout."

To demonstrate this, the specially designed garden—"Weed It G'out "—will feature kidney-shaped mounds adorned with local flowers. Some weeds, representing uric acid, will be shown encroaching on the flowers to provide a visual representation of the connection between gout and kidney disease.

The garden will pop up at kidney walks across the U.S., starting with Hawaii because of the high prevalence of gout in the state.

Gout is a common form of inflammatory arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, caused by too much uric acid in the body. It is painful, accompanied by swelling and redness, and usually affects one joint at a time, often the big toe joint.

Gout can flare up suddenly and last days or weeks, followed by long periods of remission before returning again.

While there is no cure, CDC says gout can be treated with medication and self-management strategies.

Teixeira first learned she had gout at the age of 21 when she experienced a flare-up and went to see a doctor.

"Everyone in my family has it, " she said. "My mom, my auntie, uncle, my gramma, grandpa had it, so it was in the back of my mind that I could possibly get it. But I was young and didn't pursue any kind of treatment since I was a senior in college and living life to its fullest."

Some episodes were so painful she was unable to drive, she said, because it affected her right foot, which she needed to press on the gas and brake pedals.

It was only about 10 years ago when she proactively searched for a doctor to specifically treat the gout. In 2021, after some blood work, she was referred to a nephrologist who diagnosed her with chronic kidney disease.

Teixeira said she has changed her lifestyle and diet, and is careful to avoid food high in purines and certain meats, such as pork, that she believes are triggers.

Her advice to others is to take gout seriously and seek out care early instead of waiting. She also recommends taking care of oneself and being one's own health advocate.

Teixeira is trying to find the right medications for her condition, which she says has been a challenge the past few years.

Gout affects more than 9 million people in the U.S., according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, and is more common in men and older people. One in 4 people with moderate to severe chronic kidney disease have gout.

Native Hawaiian adults are at of developing gout than other ethnicities, according to a 2022 University of Hawaii study.

2023 Hawaii Kidney Walk