People with gout have been caricatured and laughed at throughout the centuries – but for people living with the condition, it is anything but funny.
Gout is, in fact, the most common form of inflammatory arthritis worldwide. Currently, one in 40 people in the UK have gout and between 1997 and 2012 the prevalence of gout rose by a whopping 64% - predominantly a result of an ageing population and rising obesity levels.
Caused by raised uric acid levels in the body, it is often associated with many other serious health conditions including kidney disease, diabetes, heart attack and stroke. Left untreated, gout attacks can be excruciatingly painful, leading to joint damage, permanent disability and an increased risk of death. They can also last for one or two weeks, impacting on everyday activities, work and family life.
Despite its impact, sadly gout is not taken seriously enough. As the only dedicated gout charity in the UK, the UK Gout Society is committed to raising awareness of this extremely painful condition, dispelling some of the myths about gout and providing basic support and information.
While half of all people with gout are overweight, gout can also be associated with crash dieting, stress, prolonged illness, injury, and some drugs such as water tablets and aspirin. One in ten people with gout will have inherited the disorder. There is also evidence that gout attacks are more common in spring than any other season. The reason why gout attacks increase in the spring is a bit of a medical mystery. It could be the change in the weather or possibly a change in diet.
Whatever the cause, if you think you have gout, it is important you seek help from a medical professional as soon as possible – not only to get the right treatment but also to rule out links with any other possible health conditions.
You can also help yourself when experiencing a gout attack in a number of ways. These include using ice packs to ease the swelling; resting the joint and keep it as elevated as possible; drink lots of fluids and avoid alcohol, particularly beer, sugary drinks and foods rich in purines.
For more information about gout and to download our fact sheets on diet, treatments and other health problems, visit our website: www.ukgoutsociety.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also become a Friend of the UK Gout Society for just £18 per year and receive regular tips and updates. http://www.ukgoutsociety.org/support_us.php .