Gout: a misunderstood condition

January 28, 2021 by Lisa Bywaters0

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What do Queen Victoria, Jared Leto, Benjamin Franklin, Harry Kewell, Sir Isaac Newton, Michelangelo, Sir Alec Guinness and Jim Belushi have in common?

They all lived (or live) with gout.

Most people don’t realise that gout is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis in the world ????. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, there are 41 million adults with gout worldwide; that’s more than twice the number of people living with rheumatoid arthritis.

Gout is characterised by repeated attacks of extreme joint pain, swelling and redness. The most commonly affected joint is the big toe, but gout can affect your feet, ankles and knees, elbows, wrists and fingers.

Historical stereotypes

Gout has always gotten a bad rap ????. It’s long been associated with kings, lavish living and an overindulgence of food and alcohol.

We now know this isn’t the case. It’s a complex, very painful condition that affects many Australians, who deal with stigma based on an out-of-date stereotype.

Women get gout too, as do people who don’t drink or eat meat. Gout is more complex than the historical image. Which is why some rheumatologists have suggested gout be renamed ‘urate crystal arthritis’ to lose the stigma attached to ‘gout’.

So what does cause gout?

Gout occurs when uric acid, a normal waste product, builds up in the bloodstream and forms urate crystals in a joint.

Our body makes uric acid when it breaks down purines, a substance found in our cells and in food.

Uric acid normally dissolves in your blood, is processed by your kidneys and leaves your body in urine.

If your body makes too much uric acid, or your kidneys can’t clear enough of it out, it builds up in your blood. This is called hyperuricaemia.

Having hyperuricaemia doesn’t mean you’ll develop gout. In fact most people with hyperuricaemia don’t go on to develop gout. Because of this it’s thought that other factors such as your genes may be involved.

Find out more about gout, including what you can do in terms of your diet and weight.

Call our Help Line

If you have questions about things like managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.



Musculoskeletal Australia (or MSK) is the consumer organisation working with, and advocating on behalf of, people with arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, gout and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions.

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