Public Awareness

The results of a new survey undertaken by the Gout & Uric Acid Education Society show that the general public has little knowledge of gout, an excruciating form of arthritis that can leave its 3-5 million American sufferers incapacitated and wracked with pain. Out of the more than 2,000 adult Americans surveyed, 65% confessed they were, "not at all knowledgeable," about gout and over 70% hadn't a clue that gout is a type of arthritis. Sad, considering that gout is the most prevalent form of inflammatory arthritis in adults.

Famous Figures

N. Lawrence Edwards, M.D. chairman of the Gout & Uric Acid Education Society, professor of medicine at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and a rheumatologist, explains that a number of myths have proliferated about the condition that has made it difficult to raise the public conscious about the disease. Many historical figures were known to suffer from the disease, for instance Henry VIII, Benjamin Franklin, and Sir Isaac Newton. As a result, many people are under the impression that gout is extinct. Yet the numbers show that this impression is far from the truth. The number of Americans with gout has been seen to double over the last 30 years.

While gout is associated with high blood levels of uric acid, a state of being known as hyperuricemia, more than 4 out of every 5 adults, or 83%, either hadn't had their levels checked or weren't sure if they'd had them checked within a five year span. Of those who have a confirmed diagnosis of gout, 35% either had not had their levels checked in the past 5 years, or weren't sure.

One third of the adults surveyed and about half of those who have had gout in the past think that gout can be cured. While most times gout is a very manageable illness, becoming symptom-free should by no means be considered as having achieved a cure. In the absence of pain, prolonged hyperuricemia left untreated can cause deformity and permanent damage to joints. Lowering blood uric acid levels to below 6.0 mg/dL is recommended to forestall the damage that gout can cause.

Crippling Disease

Just under half of the adults surveyed, 49%, had no idea that gout can be crippling and may lead to the necessity to use a cane or walker or even force gout sufferers to stop working due to mobility issues. Dr. Edwards comments, "People with gout are often stereotyped as being overindulgent or heavy drinkers and there is a perception that sufferers bring the condition on themselves. If we are going to improve care for the growing number of Americans living with gout, these myths need to be corrected."