Hope and treatment are available for the more than 9800 people in the Waikato region who have gout, a potentially crippling form of arthritis that can strike at any time.
Arthritis New Zealand is launching a campaign this Friday – ‘Don’t get trapped by gout!’ – to raise awareness about gout, and to encourage Kiwis who think they may have the illness to see their GP, so it can be managed and treated. New Zealand has one of the highest prevalences of gout worldwide.
Sandra Kirby from Arthritis New Zealand says gout is the second most common form of arthritis in New Zealand, and one of the most painful.
“It’s caused by too much uric acid in the blood and affects joints, causing sudden attacks of pain, often coming on overnight. It can affect any joint but initially it often affects the big toe or another part of the foot. The skin over the joint may also become red and shiny.”
Ms Kirby says there are a number of myths and misunderstandings about gout, including that it is an ‘old man’s disease’, mainly affects the wealthy and can’t be treated.
“In fact, while gout is more likely to occur in males and in Māori and Pacific people, it can strike at any time.”
She says the good news is gout can be managed, and while there is no cure, there is treatment to ease pain and other symptoms.
“This campaign has a simple message – if you think you have gout, go and see your GP, or contact Arthritis New Zealand – www.goutnz.org.nz or 0800 663 463.”
Former All Black and Hurricanes prop Neemia Tialata knows first-hand how painful and debilitating gout can be, having been diagnosed at the age 20 after a rugby game.
“I was in so much pain and couldn’t walk. I saw a doctor who diagnosed gout and put me on daily medicine straight away.
“I couldn’t believe it at first. I didn’t know gout was a form of arthritis, that someone my age could have it, or that Pacific Island and Māori people, especially men, are more likely to get it.”
Now aged 32, Neemia says taking his daily medication and moderating his diet by limiting shellfish, beer and red wine, has allowed him to keep his gout under control and continue his rugby career.
His advice to anyone who thinks they might have gout is to see their doctor.
“Don’t be shy or scared about it. See your GP so you can get the right medication and advice and stay on top of it.”
Things you probably didn’t know about gout
- Gout is a form of arthritis – it’s the second most common form of arthritis in New Zealand.
- Gout is caused by too much uric acid in the blood. It’s normal and healthy to have some uric acid in your body and most people get rid of it through their urine.
- High levels of uric acid can turn into crystals that are very sharp, like needles, and make your joints very painful. Gout often occurs in the big toe.
- About 80 percent of the time high uric acid is caused by people’s genes, their weight or kidney problems. About 20 percent is caused by food and drink – things like meat, seafood, beer and fizzy drinks.
- Gout is three times more common in men than women.
- Many Māori and Pacific men are genetically more likely to get gout – it’s estimated up to 14 percent of Pacific men have it.
- If you think you may have gout, go and see your GP or visit the Arthritis New Zealand Gout website .
- Thankfully, gout can be easily managed – there are effective medicines available to treat it.
- You can help control gout by taking your gout medication every day – even if you aren’t having a gout attack. Losing weight, eating healthy food and staying away from alcohol and fizzy drinks can also help.
- Former All Black and Hurricane prop Neemia Tialata has gout – and controls it with daily medication and diet.
- If you have gout, you’re in good company! Famous people who suffered from gout include Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Laurence Olivier, Frederick the Great and Leonardo da Vinci.
- The ancient Greeks used to treat gout attacks with a drug from the crocus lily bulb called colchicine. Colchicine is still used as a gout medication today.
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For further information about the gout campaign, or to arrange an interview with Neemia, contact
Business Development Manager Arthritis New Zealand
Ph: 04 472 1450
Mob: 027 480 6209
Arthritis New Zealand Gout website
High res versions of Neemia’s photo are available.
Contact Jane Thompson
Mob: 021 883 491