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Shame and embarrassment a barrier to treatment for gout?

Shame and embarrassment a barrier to treatment for gout?

22 May is Gout Awareness Day. Today, Arthritis New Zealand is asking New Zealanders to gain a better understanding of this chronic and incredibly painful arthritis condition. Yes, gout is a form of arthritis!

“Gout is neither shameful nor funny,” says Sandra Kirby CEO of Arthritis New Zealand. “And yet these reactions are not uncommon when people live with gout.”

We endeavoured to get someone to let us tell their story. A 30 year old Pacific male was prepared to talk with us – but on the condition he remained unidentified. He told us that he was ashamed and embarrassed that he had gout.

“If you have gout my family and friends think it’s hilarious, but I don’t see the funny side of it. A lot of people just assume you’ve been on a bender, eaten too many oysters, or just eaten too much, ‘the disease of kings’ – sometimes I wish this was the case! This is frustrating and I think it’s mainly due to the fact gout has been around for so long, so common amongst Maori and Pacific Island men that it has in some way become part of life.

This 30 year old man was diagnosed six years ago – the certainly doesn’t fit the old stereotype of a fat, old rich man that has drunk too much port. For this man, like many of the nearly 120,000 people living with gout it is a family affair. In his family, his mother, father and a sister all have gout.

For this man and for many others gout wasn’t his first diagnosis. His foot pain was treated as an injury. It took several X-rays and assessments by different doctors. For him the family GP was the key to correct diagnosis.

Gout takes a toll on people. As our man tells us:

“Gout is having a huge impact on my life and work; I am a tradesman which is a relatively active job. The gout usually affects my feet and ankles but has at times flared up in my hands. When it is in my feet I can’t walk. I obviously need my hands in my job! I have had to take weeks off work at a time, meaning less/no income for me and my family. It is like a vicious cycle as to help/get rid of the gout I need to get fit & exercise but can’t do this when I can barely walk. It is a very depressing condition, when at its worst, I feel useless and it is killing my life. “

Fortunately gout can be effectively treated – medication, diet and exercise all play a part. Early diagnosis and treatment is really important. We need people to see their GP early to get gout under control. Untreated gout can cause major joint damage that is permanent. Pharmac funds a range of medications that work to manage gout.

“We are using Gout Awareness Day to take gout seriously,” concluded Ms Kirby.


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