When 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. When the body creates too much uric acid or cannot clear it properly, it can cause sudden and sometimes severe gout attacks, called flare-ups, that cause joint pain, swelling, or redness. Gout can disrupt many aspects of daily living.
Registered nurse Theresa Caldron recalls having gout issues shortly after being diagnosed with kidney disease. She says, “Despite experiencing pain, no one around you knows it because you don’t look sick.” Because kidneys filter and release uric acid, people with kidney disease are more likely to experience gout. Roughly one in 10 people with chronic kidney disease has gout, and an even higher percentage of people with gout have kidney disease.
To help debunk some myths about gout, the American Kidney Fund created the “Goutful” education campaign to educate and empower patients with gout to live easier and prevent further health complications, especially relating to their kidneys. Consider these common myths:
Myth: Gout is rare. 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, many women experience gout after menopause.
Myth: Only people who are obese get gout. People of all sizes can develop gout. Though people who are obese are at a higher risk, gout is more common in people with other health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or kidney disease. Males ages 30-50, organ transplant recipients, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Black people, individuals with a family history of gout, and people exposed to lead, are more at risk for the condition.
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 such as 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. 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.