Once thought of as the “disease of kings” for its association with rich foods and alcohol, gout – as we now know – doesn’t discriminate based on socioeconomic status.1 The myths about the condition don’t end there: we tackle 7 misconceptions your patients might have about gout.

Myth #1: Gout is a rare disease.

Gout is thought by some to be relatively uncommon. However, more than 8 million Americans, or approximately 4% of the population, have the condition.2 In fact, gout is the most prevalent form of inflammatory arthritis in men aged >40 years.3

Myth #2: Gout only affects men.

Because men tend to have higher uric acid levels than women, they are more likely to get the disease. Yet, gout is not exclusive to men: whereas 3% to 6% of men in developed western nations get the condition, 1% to 2% of women do, as well.2

Myth #3: Only people who are obese experience gout attacks.

Although obesity is a risk factor for gout, people of all sizes can develop the disease. Gout is particularly common in people with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and kidney disease.4

Myth #4: Gout only affects the big toe.

Although gout often first attacks the joint at the base of the big toe, the disease can occur in any joint. The knee, ankle, elbow, wrist, and finger joints are also commonly affected.4

Myth #5: Consuming dairy products increases the risk for gout.

There is a misconception that people with gout should avoid dairy products such as milk and yogurt. However, studies have shown that intake of low-fat dairy has a moderate urate-lowering effect and is associated with a reduced risk for the disease.5,6

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Myth #6: A better diet can cure gout.

People who are prone to gout should avoid diets rich in meat and seafood. They should also avoid consuming large amounts of alcohol. Yet, although these measures may help decrease uric acid levels in the body, diet modification alone is not a cure. Medications may still be necessary to lower uric acid levels and reduce the risk of acute flare-ups.4

Myth #7: There are no effective medications for gout.

Many medications may be effective in treating and preventing gout attacks. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), colchicine, and corticosteroids may be used to treat attacks. Xanthine oxidase inhibitors (XOIs) may block the production of uric acid, while uricosurics may improve the kidney’s ability to remove uric acid from the body.4

References

  1. Nuki G, Simkin PA. A concise history of gout and hyperuricemia and their treatment. Arthritis Res Ther. 2006;8(1):S1.
  2. Arthritis by the numbers. Arthritis Foundation. 2018.
  3. Gout: joint pain and more. Harvard Health. December 2007. Accessed August 29, 2019.
  4. Gout. Mayo Clinic. March 1, 2019. Accessed August 29, 2019.
  5. Choi HK, Atkinson K, Karlson EW, Willett W, Curhan G. Purine-rich foods, dairy and protein intake, and the risk of gout in men. N Engl J Med. 2004;350(11):1093-1103.
  6. Dalbeth N, Palmano K. Effects of dairy intake on hyperuricemia and gout. Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2011;13(2):132-137.