Gout Survey Offers Peek at the Pain

Most Gout Patients Believe the Disease Isn't Taken Seriously and That Their Complaints of Pain Are Often Dismissed as Overreaction, Survey Finds

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on June 11, 2010
From the WebMD Archives

June 11, 2010 -- Two-thirds of the 5 million Americans suffering from gout, the most common form of inflammatory arthritis in men, say the disease isn’t taken seriously, a new survey finds.

The condition, which also affects women after menopause, is so painful that a new 2010 Gout Attitudes Patient Survey says 37% of people with the disease would trade a winning lottery ticket for an assurance of never suffering another flare of the disease.

Gout is a chronic metabolic condition that occurs when excess uric acid in the body forms crystals that are deposited in the joints, causing swelling and pain.

The survey developed by the Men’s Health Network and Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America Inc., also finds that:

  • About 25% of gout patients say people without gout think they are overreacting when complaining of the pain it causes.
  • 23% of patients compare the pain of a gout attack to shattered glass piercing their skin, 28% to breaking a bone, 34% to a severe burn, and 37% to a stubbed toe.
  • 27% of gout patients say the disease causes them to take to their beds and take time off from work.
  • 69% of gout patients describe the pain of an attack as “miserable.”
  • Although a third of respondents said they had experienced an average of two or more attacks in the past 12 months, 91% also said they feel they have their condition under control.
  • 73% of gout patients surveyed reported limited physical activity and 43% said they had canceled social plans because of a gout attack.
  • 37% of gout patients said they would likely exercise more and 36% would leave their homes more often if they did not have gout.

The 2010 Gout Attitudes Patient Survey, conducted by Braun Research Inc., asked 1,000 patients living with the disease to describe the level of discomfort it causes and the emotional toll it takes.

“The study reveals a startling disconnect between the degree of pain and discomfort patients experience and the reported success of their care or management plan,” Zorba Paster, MD, clinical professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says in a news release. “Patients need to know that they don’t have to ‘just live with’ a certain number of flares.”

He says gout is the result of high uric acid levels in the body and that the disease needs ongoing management with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes.

A gout flare can affect different areas of the body, including wrists, knees, and elbows, although patients most often experience pain in the big toe.

Scott Williams, vice president of Men’s Health Network, says the survey’s intent is to raise awareness of symptoms and treatments for the disease, which he says is manageable by physicians.

Other findings of the survey:

  • 51% described their gout as very severe or severe.
  • Half said it caused “unbearable” pain during a flare.
  • 64% of patients reported feeling stressed during an attack of the disease, 47% are angered, 40% become depressed, 16% feel embarrassment, and 38% said they feel overwhelmed.
  • 41% of men and 33% of women said they would participate in sports and exercise more often if they didn’t have to worry about the pain of gout.

Gout sufferers were interviewed by telephone. The Men’s Health Network says survey results are projectable to a larger population and that the margin of error for findings is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

The Men’s Health Network is a national nonprofit organization that says its goals are to save men’s lives by reducing the premature mortality of men and boys, to improve the physical and mental health of men, and to work with and through women as the family’s health care leader to reach men with important health messages.

Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America Inc. and Takeda Global Research and Development Center Inc. are subsidiaries of Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. The firms market medications for diabetes, insomnia, rheumatology, and gastroenterology.

Show Sources


News release, Men’s Health Network, Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America.

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