I suffered my first gout attack about six months ago. After the second attack yesterday, my doctor gave me a prescription for colchicine. But my father (who also has gout) told me he’s never heard of this drug. Should I really be taking it? Should my father find out about it? Maybe HE should be taking it, too.

The treatment of gout is not always the same from one person to the next. What stays the same is the preventive steps patients are encouraged to take. For example, patients are reminded not to drink alcohol (beer or liquor) or eat foods with purines in them (e.g., red meat, sea food).

It is important to stay hydrated as dehydration is a risk factor for acute flare-ups. The use of diuretics for any reason (control blood pressure, weight loss) can contribute to dehydration. Patients must be aware of these facts and act accordingly.

Medications such as antiinflammatories, corticosteroids, colchicine, or interleukin 1 inhibitors may be prescribed. The choice of medication depends on the patient’s age, severity of the gout attack, and other health factors such as the presence of diabetes and kidney function.

Older adults are at greater risk for heart problems so some of the medications may not be appropriate for them. Anyone who has gastrointestinal problems or who is already taking antiinflammatory medications may do better with one of the newer medications (e.g., colchicine).

If you have a history of cardiovascular disease, a history of gastrointestinal bleeding, or if you are already taking nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), then colchicine is the alternative medication choice for acute gout flare-ups. If none of these things describes your situation, then feel free to call your doctor and ask him about the choice of colchicine. Your father can also ask his physician the same question for himself.