Debunking common misconceptions about gout
(Family Features) When many people think of gout, they often picture swelling and pain in the big toe. However, gout – an extremely painful form of inflammatory arthritis – can occur in any joint when high levels of uric acid in the blood lead to the formation of urate crystals.
If your body creates too much uric acid or cannot clear uric acid properly, you may experience sudden and sometimes severe gout attacks, called flare-ups, which include pain, swelling or redness in your joints. The condition can disrupt many aspects of daily living, including work and leisure or family activities.
“I was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2009 and it wasn’t too long after that I started dealing with gout issues,” said registered nurse Theresa Caldron. “Gout affects your quality of life in a lot of different ways. You’re going through days of pain and no one knows it because you don’t look sick.”
Because the kidneys filter and release uric acid, people with kidney disease are more likely to experience a buildup of urate crystals and, therefore, gout. In fact, 1 out of 10 people with chronic kidney disease have gout, and an even higher percentage of people with gout have kidney disease.
To help debunk some myths around the condition, the American Kidney Fund, in partnership with Horizon Therapeutics, created the “Goutful” education campaign, which aims to educate and empower patients with gout to help them live easier and prevent further health complications, especially relating to their kidneys. Consider these common myths:
Myth: Gout is rare.
Gout is a relatively common condition. More than 8 million Americans have gout, and it is the most common form of arthritis in men over 40.
Myth: Gout is a man’s disease.
Anyone can get gout, but it’s more common in men than women. Though men are 10 times more likely to develop gout, rates of gout even out after age 60 since gout tends to develop for women after menopause.
Myth: Only people who are obese get gout.
People of all sizes can develop gout. Though people who are obese are at higher risk, gout is more common in people who have other health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or kidney disease. Others more at-risk for gout are males 30-50 years old, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Black people, people with a family history of gout, people with organ transplants and people exposed to lead.
Myth: Gout eventually goes away on its own.
Symptoms of gout attacks often go away within a few days, but that doesn’t mean gout is gone. Even if you don’t feel symptoms, urate crystals can build up beneath the surface, which can cause long-term health problems like joint and kidney damage.
Myth: There are things you can eat to prevent or cure gout.
Certain foods may help decrease the level of uric acid in your body, but diet alone is not a cure for gout. People with gout who follow healthy diets may still need medicine to prevent flare-ups and lower uric acid levels. Alcohol and foods rich in purines, especially red meat and seafood, should be avoided if you are prone to gout.
If you think you might have gout, talk with your doctor or a gout specialist about your symptoms. Visit kidneyfund.org/gout to learn more about gout and kidney disease.