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Much of the information circulated about gout is a myth. What should you believe?

Only little old men get gout. Cherries cure gout. Since the pain isn’t consistent, gout will go away on its own. If you’ve heard these little tidbits about gout, you’ve heard wrong. Considering how widespread gout is, it’s hard to believe so many people are so incredibly misinformed.

More than six million adults have experienced gout, yet the myths surrounding this affliction continue. Believing these myths or following false advice when treating gout can make the condition more painful and cause serious, life threatening problems.

Gout – True or False?

False: Eventually, gout goes away on its own.

True: Gout does come and go, but it’s still important to see a medical health professional and get treatment. Without proper treatment, bouts of gout could be more frequent and painful than with treatment. Treatments include medications to lower uric acid levels and control pain when uric acid formations develop in the joints and other places. Proper medication will reduce pain and control attacks, even reduce the likelihood of future attacks. By lowering uric acid levels with medication, you can keep your gout under control long term.

False: Gout is like arthritis, but milder.

True: Gout is arthritis, but it’s the most painful kind. It’s often been compared to childbirth or breaking a limb because it’s so painful. “People describe [gout] as the worst pain of their life,” explains Daniel Solomon, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a physician in the rheumatology, immunology, and allergy department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Gout can eventually lead to serious complications. Gout can cause permanent joint damage, kidney stones, and severe kidney damage.

False: Gout isn’t common.

True: Among men and the elderly, gout is not rare at all. According to a 2005 study, gout affects an estimated one percent of Americans. That’s three million people in the US suffering from the condition on any given day. For men over 40, gout is the most common type of arthritis, but it mostly strikes older men and postmenopausal women. Though it’s a common belief that gout only affects older people, many younger people have to deal with gout, too. A hereditary form of gout is known as the most painful, and can affect men before the age of 30.

False: Gout only happens in the big toe.

True: Gout can develop in many joints, including wrists, fingers, elbows, knees, ankles, and other parts of the feet. But it is true that the big toe is more vulnerable than other joints. Because we put so much pressure on our feet, sometimes for long periods without rest, 9 out of 10 people with gout will end up having gout in their big toe.

False: 10 days is the longest a gout attack will last.

True: For most people, a gout attack last anywhere from one day to a week, but others deal with chronic attacks that for much longer and can leave them with permanent joint damage. Usually, the longer bouts are less painful.

False: When the attack ends, the gout is gone.

True: Though you may not be having an attack, it’s likely your uric acid levels are still elevated between bouts. Regular treatment with medication will keep levels lower and reduce the chance of future attacks. Solomon says, “People sometimes stop taking [gout medications], and they often end up having a gout flare.”

False: Eating cherries will clear up a case of gout.

True: There is no cure for gout at this time. Not even cherries. According to one small study, cherries might help in lowering uric acid levels, but the evidence is not strong and has not been confirmed. Your doctor can make recommendations to help you adjust your diet to control gout. Don’t take chances with unproven cures. They could make your next attack even worse.

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