New campaign offers hope for those with gout

New campaign offers hope for those with gout

26 March 2015, 3:42PM

Hope and treatment are available for more than 110,000 New Zealanders* who have gout, a potentially crippling form of arthritis that can strike anyone, at any time.

Arthritis New Zealand is launching a campaign today – ‘Don’t get trapped by gout!’ – to raise awareness about gout, and to encourage Kiwis who think they may have the illness to see their GP so it can be managed and treated. New Zealand has one of the highest prevalences of gout worldwide.

Sandra Kirby from Arthritis New Zealand says gout is the second most common form of arthritis in New Zealand, and is extremely painful.

“It’s caused by too much uric acid in the blood and affects joints, causing sudden attacks of pain, often coming on overnight. It can affect any joint but initially it often affects the big toe or another part of the foot. The skin over the joint may also become red and shiny.”

Ms Kirby says it’s thought that the true number of Kiwis with gout could be even higher because people haven’t sought advice for their pain from their GP.

Former All Black and Hurricanes prop Neemia Tialata knows first-hand how painful and debilitating gout can be. After experiencing severe pain in his foot, he was diagnosed with gout 12 years ago at the age of 20.

“I didn’t believe that someone as young as me could get gout and I didn’t know that Māori and Pacific people, men in particular, are more likely to get it.”

Neemia controls his gout with daily medication and makes sure he doesn’t eat and drink too much of some things that can trigger a gout attack, including shellfish, beer and red wine.

“I’ve been able to stay on top of my gout and continue my rugby career, so anyone who thinks they may have gout should see their doctor.”

Sandra Kirby says while there is no cure, the good news is gout can be managed with medications that ease pain and other symptoms.

“This campaign has a simple message – if you think you have gout, go and see your GP, or contact Arthritis New Zealand – or 0800 663 463.”

Things you probably didn’t know about gout

1.    Gout is a form of arthritis – it’s the second most common form of arthritis in New Zealand.

2.    Gout is caused by too much uric acid in the blood. It’s normal and healthy to have some uric acid in your body and most people get rid of it through their urine.

3.    High levels of uric acid can turn into crystals that are very sharp, like needles, and make your joints very painful. Gout often occurs in the big toe.

4.    About 80 percent of the time high uric acid is caused by people’s genes, their weight or kidney problems. About 20 percent is caused by food and drink – things like meat, seafood, beer and fizzy drinks.

5.    Gout is three times more common in men than women.

6.    Many Māori and Pacific men are genetically more likely to get gout – it’s estimated up to 14 percent of Pacific men have it.

7.    If you think you may have gout, go and see your GP or visit the Arthritis New Zealand gout website.

8.    Thankfully, gout can be easily managed – there are effective medicines available to treat it.

9.    You can help control gout by taking your gout medication every day – even if you aren’t having a gout attack. Losing weight, eating healthy food and staying away from alcohol and fizzy drinks can also help.

10.  Former All Black and Hurricane prop Neemia Tialata has gout – and controls it with daily medication and diet.

11.  If you have gout, you’re in good company! Famous people who suffered from gout include Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Laurence Olivier, Frederick the Great and Leonardo da Vinci.

12.  The ancient Greeks used to treat gout attacks with a drug from the crocus lily bulb called colchicine. Colchicine is still used as a gout medication today.

*Data from the Health Quality & Safety Commission’s Atlas of Healthcare Variation gout domain: