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Gout? Why do we have it and how do we prevent or treat it?

Professor Richard Day lead researcher about gout at UNSW and St Vincent Hospital, Sydney Source: Eindra Aung

If no attention is paid to gout, health consequences are inevitable. That is the main reason why Dr. Richard Day the lead researcher who collaborated with other organizations to create the 'My Gout App' to help people who suffer this condition in silence.

'Gout is a very common problem that affects people's life with very painful arthritis that can come and go and commonly occur with men, but we can treat and prevent from occurring,' says lead researcher Professor Richard Day from the University of New South Wales Medicine and the St Vincent Hospital in Sydney.

"The patients themselves, there is a bit to learn about the treatment of gout, especially what the treatment doing and how you should take your treatment, so there is quite an important need for knowledge education to help people and if you get that from the doctor and the doctors are knowledgable enough and the patient knows enough then it is very possible to get rid of this condition,'' says Dr. Richard Day.

'The most common reason why some of us have gout is that it is because when cells in our body died, some people's kidney just couldn't get rid of this uric acid to the safe level, the end result of this is uric acid which will end up concentrating in our body - our blood and joints.'

'The higher the content of uric acid concentration in a person's body-higher than the average person, the higher the risk of that person having gout attack,' says Dr. Day.

Gout research team from UNSW and St Vincent Hospital Sydney lead by Professor Richard Day
Gout research team: UNSW, St Vincent Hospital (L-R): Dr Eindra Aung, Dr Matthew Coleshill, Prof Richard Day, Ms Thuy Huynh, Dr Bishoy Kamel, Mr Marcel Schulz-Gout research team from UNSW and St Vincent Hospital Sydney
Eindra Aung

'But mostly, it is genetic heredity or family history', says Dr. Richard Day. Some other factors might due to the foods that we eat or what we drink-organ meats, game meats, certain types of crustaceans - seafood and or some type of vegetables or soft drinks and alcohols which might contribute to a high level of purine, a type of chemical compound that produces uric acid waste could crystallize in the joint that is why we have gout attack.

Dr. Richard Day who is the Director of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology at St Vincent Hospital estimates that there are up to one million Australians who might experience gout.

When there is a gout attack, it commonly starts in the foot at the base of the big toe. The toe feels incredibly painful. It's been described as the most painful condition you can have, like a red hot needle being pushed into someone. So if this has happened repeatedly,  then ultimately the joints can be damaged and there can be damaged to other parts of the body as well.

"We can minimize the attack by taking pain killers but that is just for temporary pain relief, what we really need to do is to continue and gradually increasing taking 'allopurinol' the medication that is actually blocking or lowering the production of uric acid in our blood to the level which will prevent a future attack. That sounds pretty easy, but it does require people to commit to taking the medicine and not forgetting it. Surprisingly, gout is also going along with other chronic diseases like diabetes and heart attack and strokes, so we should keep our health and weight in check," says Dr. Day.

'Australian of Asian background are the most at-risk group somehow it might be because they may have a skin reaction to this medication. But it is related to genetics and genetic marker, but generally speaking, most people don't experience this problem'.

Gout-Trev-CC BY-NC 2.0-Flickr

"People don't have much knowledge about this condition, therefore, they are suffering alone". That's why he leads his team to collaborate with different agencies, general practitioners-GPs, and patients to create 'My Gout App', with the hope that could help patients to monitor this attack. 

'But what is more challenging is that people keep forgetting to take their medication and do not take their medication regularly in order to reduce the uric acid within their blood or their joints to a safe level that could prevent gout attacks, that is why they are suffering'.

Another factor is that people fear that they might be stigmatized for what they eat and drink which leads to gout as well.

If anyone who want to participate with this research and use this app to help they can check out at if you are eligible and or you can call the hotline number on 1800 931 544.

Disclaimer: The interview and this medicine mentioned here ('allopurinol') is for general information only, and may not apply to an audience member's specific circumstances. Health professionals must be always consulted. Taking this medicine or following ideas from this expert interviewed without consulting with health professionals is at the disposal of your own personal risk. 

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