While elevated uric acid levels are the root cause of gout, few sufferers say they get their uric acid levels checked regularly, and just one in four (27 percent) had their levels tested within the past six months—a timeframe recommended by GUAES and the American College of Rheumatology. In addition to routine monitoring, those who have gout should maintain a healthy uric acid target of 6 mg/dL or below, with most gout patients needing to take daily uric acid-lowering medications to achieve this goal. Despite this, just four in 10 with gout say they take uric acid-lowering medications, and an equal amount incorrectly believe that they only need to take medications when they are having a flare.
"Gout is an extremely destructive disease that needs to be addressed year-round—not just during flares, which may initially happen as infrequently as once or twice per year," said N. Lawrence Edwards, M.D., a rheumatologist and GUAES chairman. "Unfortunately, while those with gout know just how painful and debilitating a flare can be, there is low awareness of the long-term health implications for gout, including the link to other comorbid health issues. This appears to be translating into lack of action."
In those who have gout, uric acid accumulates and forms crystals in the joints and other tissues, leading to painful flares. Left untreated, gout can lead to permanent bone, joint and tissue damage. Gout and elevated uric acid levels have also been linked to other health issues, including kidney stones and chronic kidney disease, diabetes, heart attack and stroke.
Low Awareness and Stigma
The survey found that most Americans—including gout sufferers—know little to nothing about the alleged "disease of kings." While gout is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis, seven out of 10 Americans overall (71%) and more than half of those with gout (55 percent) don't even think of gout as being a type of arthritis.
Additionally, one in three with gout does not know it is caused by a build-up of uric acid, and just one in five knows that other health conditions can put them at an increased risk for gout. While gout is a chronic disease that requires life-long management, half of those with gout incorrectly believe that it is a disease that "comes and goes." Furthermore, less than half with gout know that the disease can be hereditary.
In addition to a general lack of understanding of what gout is and can do to the body, the survey confirmed that a stigma exists when it comes to addressing gout. More than half of gout sufferers surveyed (52 percent) say they are embarrassed to have it, and nearly half (46 percent) believe it's their fault that they have it.
"These perceptions need to be changed," said Dr. Edwards. "Like rheumatoid arthritis, gouty arthritis is very painful, very serious and requires immediate and ongoing medical attention."
"The key difference is that gout is three to four times more common than rheumatoid arthritis—yet receives a fraction of the media's attention," added Dr. Edwards. "More than 8.3 million Americans are suffering from gout today, with numbers on the rise—so there's a heightened need for greater education and awareness."
For additional information and resources about gout, visit GoutEducation.org.
The Gout & Uric Acid Education Society is a nonprofit organization of health care professionals dedicated to educating the public and health care community about gout—the most common form of inflammatory arthritis—and the related consequences of hyperuricemia. Learn more at gouteducation.org. Twitter: @GoutEducation Facebook: Gout Education
[i] Online survey of 1,000 nationally representative Americans ages 18+, with an oversampling of 103 interviews of adults who have been diagnosed with gout. Conducted April 11-18, 2016 by Wakefield Research on behalf of the Gout & Uric Acid Education Society.
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SOURCE Gout & Uric Acid Education Society