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Gout Patients’ Journey Should Motivate Us to Act


Learning to live with gout looks different for every patient. But as a recent survey from the Alliance for Gout Awareness found, most patients experience unnecessary hardship on their journey to obtaining a diagnosis and effective treatment plan. 

Among the most startling findings: 

  • More than four in 10 patients went to the ER for care. And 75% of gout patients sought emergency care more than once, demonstrating it is a revolving door of inefficiency for patients. These statistics are consistent with prior studies that show emergency care for gout is not only expensive, but also becoming more common. We have a big opportunity to redirect patients to more appropriate sites of care. 
  • Of those who visited the ER, 74% were prescribed an opioid for pain relief. While opioids may mask pain in the short-term, they do nothing to help address the underlying, attack-inducing problem: high uric acid. Taking opioids also comes with a risk of misuse or abuse. 
  • More than half of patients saw multiple health care providers without getting clear answers. This proves that rheumatologists are rarely patients’ first stop or go-to provider for managing their gout. We must reach more emergency room and primary care providers with information that can help more efficiently recognize signs of the condition and refer patients to a gout specialist.   

Given these results, it’s no wonder gout continues to interrupt the daily lives of so many people. I think of one patient, a woman in her 40s. When she first came to me, she tearfully recalled how the uric acid deposits in her knuckles were getting so bad, she was having trouble in her job as a dental hygienist. With aggressive treatment, we were able to get the tophi under control and she no longer struggles to make it through a full day of patients. 

Over the course of my career. I’ve seen countless patients who were on the brink of losing their livelihood, their marriage, even their mental health, due to uncontrolled gout. The debilitating condition causes hopelessness and isolation. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Even though gout isn’t curable, it is manageable.  

Talking about survey results like these helps to raise awareness about the condition, which is necessary for reducing stigmatization and supporting appropriate care seeking. Working together, patients, providers and advocates can rewrite the narrative for people suffering with gout. 

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