Gout is a painful condition that occurs when excess uric acid in the blood crystallises in the joints of the body, causing attacks of severe pain and inflammation. It’s a well-known condition but sorely misunderstood as lots of people are misinformed about its causes and management. Here are four common myths about gout and the truth behind them.
1. Gout affects the big toe only
Most people find their first-ever gout attack affects the joint at the base of the big toe. This is because uric acid crystallises at cooler temperatures, and joints in the toes are most likely to get cold because they’re furthest from the heart. The joints in the fingers can often be affected first for a similar reason.
However, it’s possible to experience your first gout attack in any joint, and it’s highly likely that subsequent attacks will affect other joints. The condition often progresses up the body, so if the first attack affects the big toe, the next attack could affect the ankle, then the knee, and then the hip.
2. Only men get gout
It’s often believed that only men get gout or that it’s incredibly rare for women to be affected, but this isn’t true. Women produce lower levels of uric acid than men until they go through menopause, at which point their uric acid levels increase to almost match that of men and their risk of developing gout is the same. This means that men are more likely to develop gout between the ages of 30 and 50 than women are.
However, it’s not impossible for women within this age range to have gout. There are many factors involved in the development of gout, including diet, lifestyle, weight, pre-existing health conditions, prescribed medications and genetics.
3. Gout is caused by obesity
Obese people are more likely to develop gout than those who are a healthy weight because uric acid levels are higher in those who are overweight. However, this doesn’t mean that obesity causes gout. Obesity is just one of several factors, including excessive consumption of alcohol and meat, that can contribute to gout. It is possible to develop gout despite being a healthy weight. Regardless of the cause of gout, those who are overweight can help to reduce the severity of their symptoms by losing excess weight.
4. Acidic foods cause gout
Since gout is caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood, many people mistakenly believe that acidic foods contribute to excess uric acid and therefore gout. Acidic foods do not lead to high uric acid levels. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that ascorbic acid, better known as vitamin C, can help to reduce uric acid levels. It is purine-rich foods that contribute to high uric acid levels, and these should be eaten in moderation. Red meat, seafood and alcohol are all examples of purine-rich foods.
Avoid misinformation to manage gout properly
If you are someone you know has been diagnosed with gout, it’s important to learn about the condition and separate myth from fact. The more you know about gout, the more successfully you’ll be able to manage the condition and keep painful attacks at bay.