Feelings about the diagnosis of gout

People we spoke to recalled having lots of questions when they were first diagnosed. Finding out how to ease the pain took priority for most, as well as wanting to know:

•    How gout would affect their everyday lives
•    What they could do to manage the condition and prevent another attack
•    What the treatment options were
•    Why they had got gout
•    Whether they could change their lifestyle to manage the condition

When Harry was diagnosed, his main concern was to ‘get rid of’ the pain and he did not think about having to deal with gout long-term. Tony also saw gout as a temporary condition and did not realise that it was permanent. In contrast, Jonathan talked about going through a process of adjusting to the idea of having a long-term condition that he would have to manage for the rest of his life. Similarly, John X knew that he was going to have to manage his gout, but felt that he would not get any help from health professionals. 
Some people, like Shirley, were not surprised by the diagnosis because it confirmed what they already knew about the symptoms of gout. However, most were shocked or surprised because they had never considered that their symptoms could be gout. 
For some people the diagnosis was confusing because their lifestyles were very different to those they associated with gout. This was particularly the case for younger people, women, those who felt that they led healthy and active lives, people who drank little or no alcohol, and people who did not have a family history of gout. 
Val felt angry about getting gout. She ‘felt a bit cheated’ because she had got it at a younger rather than older age. Naresh also wondered why he had gout at the age of 25 when his father had not been diagnosed until he was in his 50s. The thought of being diagnosed at a young age, and having gout for many years, was worrying for Paula.

Jonathan, who had expected to be diagnosed with an injury, was unhappy about the way his doctor told him that he had gout. He was initially told that he had arthritis (but not specifically gout) and advised to visit his GP again in two weeks. He left the appointment feeling shocked and upset – he was in his 30s and thought of arthritis as a progressive condition that affected older people.

Some women were diagnosed after several months or years because their GP thought it was unlikely that a woman would have gout. Sam wondered if her GP had made a mistake with her diagnosis because she did not know of any other women with gout. However, Hazel felt that gout was a condition she would have been unlikely not to get because so many of her family members have it. 
John Y felt strange about being diagnosed with gout. He knew that people often associated it with kings like Henry VIII, and felt that it was his own fault that he had it. Several people talked about their perceptions of gout being ‘a rich man’s disease’ or a condition that was caused by consuming too much port or red meat (for more see ‘Causes of gout’ and ‘Historical perceptions and myths about gout’).  

While many men and women did not think that they were the type of person to be diagnosed with gout, Alan saw aspects of his lifestyle that matched with the stereotypes often associated with it.
Ivor played a lot of sport and was worried about the impact of gout on his lifestyle. He was relieved to find out that it was more common than he thought and could be controlled. 

Some people felt embarrassed about being diagnosed with gout either because they saw it as an older person’s condition, or because they thought that other people would think they were leading indulgent lifestyles (for more see ‘Historical perceptions and myths about gout’).
Being diagnosed was a relief for many people. Before diagnosis, the extreme pain made Ian worry that he might have a life-threatening condition. He was glad to have a diagnosis and to learn that the symptoms could be treated. Like John Y, most people who had not been diagnosed straight away were pleased to get a diagnosis but wished it had been made sooner. 
Jeff, who was diagnosed a number of years ago, said that he was not affected or worried by the diagnosis partly because he was young and partly because he could not change it. John Z and Peter believed that they were less likely to be worried about being diagnosed than other people because of the experience they had gained working as doctors. Peter found it slightly ironic that he was diagnosed with a painful long-term condition that he has an interest in professionally. 

Some people, like Sue, accepted their diagnosis as just ‘one of those things’ and were not particularly fazed by it. Sue’s father had gout, so she already knew about the condition. However, other people whose family members had lived with gout, were worried when they were diagnosed themselves because they felt they knew what to expect. For Eddie and Val, the diagnosis made them reflect on how they had felt about relatives with gout. 
Jean, Kate and John Z all questioned the nature or accuracy of their diagnosis. Jean had previously had her toe joints replaced. The two GPs she saw found it difficult to understand how she could have gout. This left Jean feeling confused. Kate also felt confused but about the difference between her diagnosis of gout and an earlier diagnosis of (calcium) crystals in her joint. John Z, a doctor, knew a bit about gout and, when he was diagnosed with it himself, was worried that he might have other associated long-term problems. He also felt uncertain about the accuracy of his diagnosis because he knew that a blood test cannot confirm diagnosis. He had not had a fluid sample taken or come across anyone else with the ‘mild gout’ symptoms that he had (for more see ‘Tests and diagnosis of gout’).

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Last reviewed December 2016


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