At age 25, Anthony “Spice” Adams, then a noseguard for the San Francisco 49ers, woke up unable to bend his knee. But he ignored the pain, assuming it was normal football wear and tear. It was not until four years later that he was diagnosed with gout. Adams was selected #57 overall in the second round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers, after graduating from Penn State. He played for the 49ers from 2003 to 2006 and then signed as an unrestricted free agent to the Chicago Bears from 2007 to 2011.
Now, Adams has teamed up with the Gout & Uric Acid Education Society (GUAES), a nonprofit organization of health-care professionals, as the spokesperson for the Go for 6 campaign to raise awareness about the severity of gout and the importance of managing uric acid levels.
PFL: How did you endure four years of flare-ups before receiving a diagnosis? What was your reaction to finally learning you had gout?
AA: I did suffer from painful flares but just kept brushing them aside, thinking my pain was a result of normal wear and tear from the football season. I didn’t have any tests conducted and the pain eventually went away. Since I didn’t know it was gout, I wasn’t receiving the proper treatment to prevent flares, and I did not have my uric acid levels under control. If I had known, I could have potentially avoided years of flares. That’s why it’s so important for anyone who has gout symptoms to visit their doctor and get their uric acid levels checked.
In 2009, I experienced another flare after a break during the Chicago Bears’ 2009 season. The pain was excruciating—it felt like I sprained my foot and I couldn’t walk. Before I even came back for the season, I had to be put on the injury report. It kind of felt like getting fired on my day off! The Chicago Bears team trainer initially diagnosed me with gout. He scheduled an appointment for me to see a rheumatologist, who ran a series of blood tests to confirm my diagnosis.
I was only 29 at the time of my diagnosis. Even though I had been experiencing flares for years, I couldn’t believe I had gout. I thought I was way too young, because I had always heard that gout affects older men. But the truth is, because gout is connected with so many other risk factors, it can affect anyone at any time.
PFL: What steps have you taken to keep your sUA level below 6?
AA: First, I get my uric acid checked regularly—the recommendation is every six months—and I work with my physician to keep my levels below 6 mg/dL. I take daily uric acid-lowering medications and I also exercise regularly, stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet. I have learned to avoid foods that may trigger a gout flare, like red meat. This isn’t something that has always been easy for me to do!
PFL: How did you get involved with the “Go For Six” campaign and what will you be doing to promote awareness and sUA monitoring?
AA: The Gout & Uric Acid Education Society approached me leading up to the 2015 Gout Awareness Day to help raise awareness about the severity of gout, the importance of getting a confirmed gout diagnosis and the need to follow an ongoing treatment plan to help avoid future gout flares and long-term damage. The “Go for 6” campaign really focuses on the magic number six—which I like to refer to as a touchdown. It’s so important for people with gout to have their uric acid levels checked every six months, with a goal of keeping levels to 6 mg/dL or below, depending on the doctor’s recommendation.
Through the campaign, I participated in a satellite media tour on Gout Awareness Day (May 22) and have shared my story through the Society’s website and patient education materials. Raising awareness about the severity of gout and elevated uric acid levels is important to me, and I hope to continue working with the Society in the future to further make an impact.
PFL: What advice would you give someone newly diagnosed with gout?
AA: Get your uric acid levels checked every six months—and keep up with your treatment regimen. Many people with gout will stop taking medications when they aren’t experiencing a flare. Beyond medications, it’s important to maintain a healthy body weight, stay hydrated and reduce consumption of food triggers.