Gout can be painful and debilitating – but also treatable, explains a new Fast Facts policy brief. A product of the newly formed Alliance for Gout Awareness, the Q&A document aims to inform and empower patients with basic information about the condition.
Gout is a form of arthritis that affects more than 8 million Americans. But while it is common, it is also commonly misunderstood.
Some foods and alcohol use can contribute to the development of gout, but hereditary factors can also play a role. “One misconception is that only people who eat poorly or drink alcohol in excess suffer from gout,” explains the paper.
Those who suffer from gout may or may not know that the disease is caused by uric acid buildup in the body, forming “tophi” crystals in the joints. But men and women with gout undoubtedly know the pain these crystals cause.
Affected joints can get red and hot. Sudden, painful attacks affect all aspects of a patient’s life, from disrupting sleep to undermining the ability to perform household chores. While gout can occur in any joint, more than 50 percent of attacks start in the big toe.
Outside the home, research shows that people with gout miss more work annually; they also have decreased productivity while there. This hurts patients, employers and communities.
Treatment & Support
The Fast Facts advises patients to consult their doctor if they experience signs or symptoms of gout.
But when it comes to talking with family and friends, patients may be less willing.
“For these men and women, the only thing more painful than the gout may be the prospect of telling a friend or family member that you have gout,” explained Josie Peterson, director of the Alliance for Gout Awareness. “Education is important to help correct the widespread myths about this disease.”
Stigma stems from the misconception that only gluttonous or unhealthy people develop gout. But sharing one’s own experience with family and friends is important, the paper notes. Having loved ones who can help during an attack is important, as is having a supportive network as patients work to treat and manage the disease.
To learn more, read “Fast Facts: Gout” and visit the Alliance for Gout Awareness.