A friend of mine once asked, “Gout? Isn’t that the old, rich, fat man’s disease?” Besides being uncharitable, this statement is wrong on pretty much all counts.
- People are developing gout at a much younger age now days thanks to the high-fructose corn syrup and other unhealthy dietary habits, but it is still rare for anyone under the age of thirty to get gout – hardly ‘old’.
- Now days, you don’t need to be rich to live a sedentary lifestyle and eat the unhealthy foods that helped gout develop its reputation as being a rich person’s disease.
- Gout is mostly influenced by genetics, so even those that are not “fat” can get gout.
- It’s not just a man’s disease….
Gout: Not Just for Men Anymore
Gout has long been considered male disease because estrogen plays a powerful role in keeping uric acid levels down in women. However, once women hit menopause, estrogen levels decrease and uric acid levels rise. In fact, after menopause, women are just as likely to develop gout as men of the same age.
Gout in women also often shows different symptoms then in men. This often leads to gout being misdiagnosed in women. Women tend to have more diffuse and less intense pain then men. Women are also more likely to develop large tohpus (collections of uric acid crystals in the body) then men. In fact, its not unusual for women with high levels of uric acid to develop large tophus without ever having a gout attack.
Women with gout are also more likely to have other serious disease. Women tend to be more likely than men to have high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney problems, and heart disease along with their gout. This can make treating gout more difficult. For example, medications used to lower high blood pressure, called diuretics, tend to raise uric acid levels and increase the risk of gout. Also, kidney problems can increase uric acid levels and limit the treatments that can be used to control gout.
The research shows that doctors often treat women with gout differently than men. This is partly due to the perception that gout is a “man’s” disease. It usually takes a lot longer for a woman that are showing symptoms to get a gout diagnosis than men. When the disease is finally correctly diagnosed, the research also shows that women are much more likely then men to get prescribed the wrong medication and at the wrong dose, and are much less likely to get the correct follow-up care than men. All this with a disease that is not well managed to begin with (See, Why is Gout so Often Mismanaged).
If you are a woman and have gout or suspect you might have gout, you are at particularly high risk for poor treatment. It’s important to arm yourself with the facts and be a part of your treatment. Only then can you ensure that you will get the proper care you deserve.
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