Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis caused by the accumulation of uric acid in blood and tissues (uric acid is normally excreted from the body via the kidneys), which leads to the formation of uric acid crystals. If these crystals get into a joint, they may trigger inflammation, causing swelling, extreme pain and tenderness.
According to the UK Gout Society, in more than half of cases a joint in the big toe is the first joint to be affected, with up to 10 percent of people having gout in more than one joint.
The disorder currently affects one in 40 people living in this country, claim the Nottingham-based researchers, whose report has been published in the medical journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. That’s the equivalent of around 1.5 million people, which is twice as high as previous estimates.
Men and women aged between 80 and 84 years of age were found to have the highest number of cases of gout, with men of all ages four times more likely to have gout than women.
By analysing primary care records from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink between 1997 and 2012, the researchers discovered the number of cases of gout increased by 64 percent, which represents an annual rise of around four percent. They also found that Wales and the North East of England had the highest number of new cases, with the lowest in the East of England and Northern Ireland.
However, while the researchers believe unhealthy lifestyles are behind this rise in the number of gout cases, they also suggest that not enough people are getting the treatment they need for the condition. Only a third were being prescribed urate-lowering drugs, the study reveals, with fewer than one in five patients in 2012 receiving medication within six months of their diagnosis.
The Arthritic Association believes lifestyle changes are also essential for controlling the symptoms of gout, including losing excess weight and cutting down on how much alcohol you drink, particularly beer. To find out more about diagnosis of gout click here