Everyday life with gout

Overall impact

Although attacks had a huge impact on the everyday lives of many people, a few people felt that gout had not affected their lives at all. Some felt this way because they could quickly recognise and treat attacks and were able to reduce the impact on their day-to-day life. Gerald has frequent, severe attacks. He felt that he had a ‘totally different life’ before gout because it has affected him so much. In contrast, Tony Y felt that gout was not a major part of his life. 
Many people felt that gout was ‘disabling’ and they had to ‘sit and wait’ for the pain to go before they could get back to normal life. People who had frequent attacks sometimes felt that having gout impacted on them all the time because they were thinking about it even when they did not have an attack. Others felt that it only affected them for short periods of time during attacks. 
Hazel felt that other people did not understand the impact that gout could have on virtually all aspects people’s lives. She believed that, because it is not a life-threatening condition, people often minimised how serious and debilitating it could be. 

Chores and activities

People had different problems depending on where their attacks were. Picking up a knife and fork was painful for Arthur when he had an attack in his hand. Jill found it difficult to make the bed. Alan tried to keep going during attacks but said it took him much longer to do things like hanging out the washing. Many people found it difficult to get to the toilet if they had attacks in their feet, ankles or knees. On one occasion, Carole could not get out of the bath.
Long-term joint damage made some common tasks challenging for a few people. Harry found it difficult to get the tops off plastic milk containers because he could not grip them easily. 

Thoughts, feelings and mood

Many people we spoke to talked about gout affecting their mood or how they felt. The pain, combined with the restrictions it had on their activities, made people feel ‘miserable’, ‘unhappy’, ‘short-tempered’, ‘grumpy’, ‘irritable’, ‘angry’ and ‘frustrated’. Gout sometimes made Eddie feel ‘downhearted’, ‘lethargic’ and ‘demoralised’ because it limited his activities and social life so much. Jill, and others, found that the pain made them tearful or weepy. One person felt that having gout was ‘frightening’ because of the debilitating impact it could have.
Some people thought about gout every day and wondered when they would get their next attack. Others did not think about it at all because their daily treatment prevented them from having attacks. Joe still worried about getting another attack even though he had not had one for several years. For Eddie, ‘it’s always there in the back of your mind’. Several people worried that they might be doing or eating something that would trigger an attack. A few people worried about getting symptoms if they ran out of their daily preventative tablets (e.g. allopurinol) or forgot to take one.
Once he was not getting attacks, Harry realised how unwell he had been with gout in the past. People he had not seen for a while commented on how much better he was looking. A few people felt grateful that gout was a condition that only affected them occasionally. 

Some people felt embarrassed about having gout, though others were more bothered by the fact that it is often seen as something that only affects older people, or men. Alan thought that some people might to be afraid to be diagnosed with gout because of their perceptions about the condition. People also felt annoyed about other people making jokes about gout because, as Harry said, ‘It’s funny for everybody except the person that’s hobbling around’ (see ‘Historical perceptions and myths about gout’).
Some people did not feel embarrassed about having gout but felt embarrassed by the impact it had on their physical activity. Alan sometimes felt slightly embarrassed because he was limping and could not help other people in the ways he would usually. Eddie found it embarrassing when he was with friends and struggled to walk to the toilet because of an attack in his knee.

The severe pain of attacks prevented many people from sleeping well, or at all. Sam felt that not sleeping well had a negative impact on her mood as well as making the pain feel worse. People found it difficult to get comfortable in bed – particularly because they could not bear to have a bed sheet touching their joint. Joe tried sleeping with his leg sticking out of the bed. Other people arranged pillows or other items either side of their joint to stop the covers touching it. Some people found it harder to cope with the pain when they were in bed because they had nothing else to do.
Some people found sitting or sleeping in a chair more comfortable. They often tried reading or watching television to distract them from the pain. A few people moved out of the bedroom to avoid disturbing other family members who were trying to sleep. Others could not physically get to bed during an attack.

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Last reviewed December 2016


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