By Greg Keenan, Vice President U.S. Medical Affairs, AstraZeneca
As the prevalence of gout continues to rise, with currently more than 8.3 million Americans affected, misconceptions and stigma about this painful disease remain widespread. This Gout Awareness Day, observed nationally on May 22, AstraZeneca is helping to raise awareness of this disease, which can have significant impact on a patient’s quality of life.
For some, gout may conjure thoughts of historical figures such as King Henry VIII and his lavish lifestyle, which was thought to cause the symptoms of gout. Throughout history, many more suffered from the debilitating pain of gout, and often in silence. Gout, a chronic, progressive disease, is actually the most common form of inflammatory arthritis, even more common than rheumatoid arthritis.
While frequently associated with unhealthy dietary choices and excessive alcohol consumption, family history is actually among the leading factors for gout. While diet can contribute to symptoms of gout, in reality, it is a person’s genetics that prevent the body from efficiently eliminating serum uric acid (sUA), thereby causing the sUA buildup that leads to gout and its flares.
Experts recommend lowering uric acid levels <6 mg/dL to prevent future flares. A flare happens when too much sUA builds up in a patient’s blood, resulting in the formation of crystals that deposit in the joints, kidneys, and other tissues. These crystals can cause inflammation, swelling and tenderness. Flares are unpredictable and can significantly impact a patient’s daily routine. Patients have reported that they find the pain resulting from a flare so agonizing that even the touch of a sheet is unbearable. This pain can result in missed work, hinder normal activities and lead to a dependence on family members and/or loved ones.
Gout is more than just painful flares. If not managed properly, over time gout can cause permanent joint destruction, bone erosion and kidney damage. With advances in treatments and understanding of the disease, gout is a manageable condition and flares can be controlled with the appropriate long-term management.
AstraZeneca recently launched goutisserious.com, a new site that provides resources and tools for individuals living with gout and their caregivers. Join AstraZeneca on Gout Awareness Day and help raise awareness of this life-impacting disease. Follow @GoutEducation and #GoutAwarenessDay on Twitter and share what you learn with your friends.
About Greg Keenan
Greg Keenan serves as Vice President and US Head Medical Officer for AstraZeneca and MedImmune where he is responsible for overseeing all US Medical Affairs activities. He is also boarded in pediatric and adult rheumatology and has published a number of articles and abstracts primarily focusing on rheumatic conditions.
Each year, May 22 is recognized as Gout Awareness Day. It was established in 2007 by the Gout & Uric Acid Education Society (GUAES) with support from the Arthritis Foundation as an opportunity to promote better understanding and raise public awareness of the disease.