Top 6 myths about gout

There is much conflicting information about gout. Learn the truth here.

17 July 2015
by Rebekah Kendal

Myth 1: Drinking and eating too much of certain foods cause gout

This is not true. “The most common misconception about gout is that it’s a disease affecting rich men who drink a lot,” says rheumatologist Dr Faruk Khatib who practices at Garden City Clinic in Johannesburg. “You will get gout if you have the combination of genes that predispose your body to retaining uric acid. If you have the genetic predisposition to gout, eating a strict diet and avoiding alcohol will not prevent you from getting the disease.”

Myth 2: Gout attacks the big toe

It’s true that gout often first attacks the joints of the big toe. However, gout is caused by uric acid crystals that can lodge in all your joints and cause inflammation, so it can also affect your hands, feet, ankles and knees. Initially, it only affects one or two joints but over time it starts affecting multiple joints.

Myth 3: You can cure gout

Unfortunately you can’t. However, there are multiple ways to manage gout, which may allow for long periods of time in which you don’t have an attack of gout. 

Myth 4: Only men get gout

Not at all! Both sexes can get gout – it’s the age of onset that differs. Men are more likely to get it earlier in life, while women are more likely to get gout when they reach menopause. After 60 however the numbers equal out.

Myth 5: Gout is painful but not dangerous

If untreated, gout can create lumps of uric acid crystals (tophi), which can become infected and life-threatening. Gout has also been associated with increased risk of heart attack or stroke, and it CAN damage and even destroy joints in your body.

Myth 6: Gout medications will solve all immediately

Not necessarily. Medications that reduce uric acid in the body may, in fact, increase the number of gout attacks at first, but only after six months to a year of taking the meds will they stop the attacks completely. The reason gout reacts like this is that even a drop in uric acid levels can trigger attacks. You can however take other medications during this time to prevent attacks of gout.