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Gout cases on the increase

The number of people seeking hospital treatment for this painful condition continues to rise, a study shows
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
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1st October 2012 - Gout, a condition which was traditionally associated with royalty and the upper classes, is becoming more commonplace. A study has found that the number of hospital admissions for gout has risen by more than 7% in England over a 10 year period.

Gout is a common type of inflammatory arthritis which occurs when need-shaped uric acid crystals form in joints. Attacks usually come on very quickly and are characterised by intense pain in the affected joint, often the big toe.

Gout affects an estimated one in 70 people in the UK. It occurs about three to four times more often in men than in women.

Disease of kings

The disease is often associated with the wealthy and privileged, and famous people to have the condition include King George IV, Sir Isaac Newton and Laurence Olivier. However, an increase in risk factors such as obesity, diabetes and drinking too much beer and spirits may be behind the rise in the general population.

The latest study, which compared hospital admissions for gout in New Zealand and England, found that there were 32,741 hospital admissions for gout in England between 1999 and 2009 - a rise of 7.2% over the 10 year period. Emergency admissions increased by 86.5% over the same period - an average annual rise of 16.9% each year.

The data also showed that people were frequently admitted more than once during flare ups of gout, and that people with the disease also had a range of other conditions including high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, heart failure and cardiovascular disease.

Increasing burden on healthcare

Writing in the journal Rheumatology, the authors say that the increasing rate of hospital admissions, and the link with other diseases, "is a significant current and future issue for western health systems like NZ [New Zealand] and England".

Professor Alan Silman, the medical director of Arthritis Research commented in an emailed statement: "Gout affects around 1.4% of the population and is the commonest form of inflammatory arthritis. We know that despite national guidelines on how to manage and treat gout effectively in primary care, many people with gout continuing to suffer acute flares, which could explain why they seek hospital admissions.

"There’s a real lack of knowledge among both patients and health professionals about the treatment of this painful condition, which responds well to a combination of diet and drug therapies to reduce urate levels, and there’s a real need for better education for both these groups."

Reviewed on September 30, 2012

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