Some of you may have probably heard about gout, and several things first popped into your mind. Unfortunately, some of these things aren’t exactly true, and it’s better to correct them as early as now before they can harm your health.
What is gout?
For starters, gout is a severe form of inflammatory arthritis that occurs when high uric acid levels in your blood form into urate crystals forming in your joints. It’s considered the most common inflammatory arthritis, with a prevalence of 0.6 to 2.9 in every 1,000 people. Gout is also common in most developed countries, including Australia (5.2%), Greece (4.75%), the USA (3.9%), Canada (3.8%), and the UK (2.5%).
When your body cannot clear the uric acid or produces too much uric acid, you may start experiencing gout attacks. The attacks can become severe, which are often called flare-ups. Gout flare-ups can be excruciating and hard to control, disrupting your daily lifestyle and activities. However, because of the myths surrounding gout, some people don’t take their attacks seriously until it’s too late for treatment.
Gout: Myths and facts you should know
Considering how prevalent it is worldwide, it can be shocking to know how it’s often misunderstood. And if you suspect or have lately been diagnosed with gout, believing these myths could make the pain worse and possibly jeopardize your health with life-threatening complications. To prevent such a scenario, this article will enumerate some common myths about it and debunk them with facts.
Myth: Gout only happens to obese or wealthy people.
Fact: Some people often think gout is the “disease for kings” because of the myth that it only happens to rich people and its association with the abundance of rich foods and alcohol. But the fact is that it doesn’t discriminate based on one’s socioeconomic status. People of any income and size can get gout.
However, your risk increases when you’re obese. When your BMI (body mass index) rises more than your average, your body’s uric acid levels also increase, putting you at risk of gout. Gout can also happen to people with weight-related health issues like high cholesterol or high blood pressure. So, if you suspect you have it, whether you’re wealthy/obese or not, you must check in with a rheumatologist for professional diagnosis and personalized treatment.
Myth: Gout only attacks the big toe.
Fact: You’ve probably seen pictures on the internet, emphasizing that it only attacks the big toe. However, that’s not entirely true. Gout occurs one joint at a time and may pound on other joints such as your ankles, hands, fingers, feet, or knees.
Additionally, since your big toe is farthest from the heart and the coolest body part, it’s often the first target of gout since its uric acid is extremely sensitive to temperature changes. When left untreated, it can attack other joints, causing permanent damage to your body. Thus, the moment you feel frequent pain in your big toe or other joints, have it checked immediately to see if it’s gout.
Myth: Gout is not deadly.
Fact: After diagnosis, some people tend to underestimate it, thinking it’s one of those diseases that won’t be deadly. In reality, gout can be life-threatening, especially when not taken seriously. Although it won’t directly kill you, gout can cause a series of other health problems that may kill you.
For example, untreated it may lead to excessive uric acid levels. Excess uric acid in the body can damage your kidneys and other organs, eventually developing into deadlier diseases like kidney stones, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Thus, make sure to take your treatment seriously. Although the treatments may not eliminate gout, they’ll reduce your flare-ups and keep your uric acid at minimal levels.
Myth: Gout is a man’s disease.
Fact: Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you’re not at risk of gout. The truth is, it isn’t a gender-specific disease. Anyone can develop gout regardless of gender. However, as per the study, men over 30 are ten times more at risk of gout, while women are often at risk after age 60 or after their menopause.
Myth: There’s no medicine for gout.
Fact: Although it is incurable, it doesn’t mean there are no medicines for it. Your rheumatologist can prescribe you some medication to help control the pain and inflammation. Furthermore, they may also recommend you take Colchicine, a medicine used to treat or reduce your flare-ups. Colchicine may take effect for several minutes to hours to minimize gout inflammation and resolve the pain quickly. Make sure to take your medicines according to the prescribed number of times.
Myth: Lifestyle or diet changes won’t help with your gout.
Fact: It’s a well-known fact that a healthy lifestyle and diet can improve your overall health. But another truth is that eating healthy foods can also help reduce the frequency and severity of your flare-ups. Foods like fresh fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains, and non-dairy fat products can lower uric acid levels, reducing joint inflammation.
In contrast, you must limit your alcohol intake and avoid eating animal proteins as they’re rich in purines which can create more uric acid and worsen the pain and inflammation of your joints.
Now that you know how serious gout is, don’t hesitate to consult a doctor or rheumatologist immediately to discuss your symptoms or the severity of your attacks. With the help of their prescribed medications and a healthy diet, you can control your body’s uric acid levels to reduce your flare-ups and manage pain effectively.