“Like you stuck your foot into a flaming charcoal brazier,” is how one family member once described the pain of his first attack of gout.
Once called ‘the disease of kings’ because it tended to strike wealthy, overindulgent individuals like Henry VIII, gout is a form of arthritis in which crystals of a substance called uric acid accumulate in joints— often beginning with the big toe. But the condition is most definitely not just a historical footnote. In fact, the prevalence of gout has been on the upswing in the past 25 years or so, and it now affects an estimated four percent of Canadian adults (mostly over age 50), making it four times as common as rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Nor is gout a disease that affects only the rich, or decadent — while lifestyle does indeed play a role, even people who eat an exemplary diet can nonetheless develop it. And not only can it cause damage to the joints if it’s not properly controlled, it can lead to kidney failure, too.
Thankfully, we now understand a good deal more about the risk factors that can predispose someone to develop gout than we did just a decade ago. And in the past few years, for the first time in decades, new treatments for treating it have come onto the market.
A big thank-you to all of the interviewees who so kindly shared their time and expertise with me for the piece:
- Dr. Hyon Choi, a rheumatologist and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School; adjunct professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and a research scientist Arthritis Research Canada.
- Dr. Gregory Choy, interim head of the division of rheumatology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.
- Dr. Alison Kydd, a Nanaimo, BC rheumatologist and clinical assistant professor in the division of rheumatology at the University of British Columbia.
- Dr. Janet Pope, a professor of medicine, epidemiology and biostatistics at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry and division head of rheumatology at St. Joseph’s Health Care London (Ont.).
- Philippe Tessier, PhD, a regular researcher with the infectious and immune diseases axis at CHUL, and professor in the department of microbiology and immunology, at the Laval University school of medicine in Quebec City.