Gout: age and experience

People we spoke to, like Sue, mentioned that gout is often perceived as being an older man’s disease. Around 2-3% of adults in the UK have gout (Kuo et al., 2015). The chances of getting gout do increase as people get older but gout can affect men of any age, whereas women are more likely to develop gout after the menopause. Because of these patterns, the older men we spoke to had often been living with gout for many years, whereas older women were likely to have been diagnosed more recently. 

Some people felt that being diagnosed with gout made them feel older, and/or slightly embarrassed because they saw it as an older persons’ condition. 
Some people have attacks of gout every few years, whereas others have them more frequently. The frequency of attacks tends to increase over time. Harry found that his attacks became more frequent and more severe as he got older. He wondered if this was because his internal organs were working less well than when he was younger. Other people found that their attacks were less frequent as they got older – often because they started taking medication to prevent them. 

Even if people had not noticed changes in the frequency or intensity of symptoms, they often had questions about the future and ageing with gout. Some worried about the possibility of long-term damage from gout as they grew older. Others wondered whether gout was caused by their kidneys working less efficiently, and if this would cause other problems later in life. Sam was particularly worried that if she got less active as she got older, her gout would become worse. Some people were concerned about how their symptoms might progress in the future, especially if they were diagnosed relatively young and were already at a particular stage. Others had no concerns about how gout might affect them as they got older.
Some people felt that their attitudes had changed as they got older, and that they had also learnt from past experiences of gout. Several talked about thinking ‘it’s not going to happen to me’ when they were younger, whereas they now took gout more seriously. Eric believed that getting older had made no difference to the level of pain he experienced from attacks, but that he had learnt to accept that he had the condition. Other people had decided that it was best to not to worry about gout because it would not help them. Jean felt that she was less likely to worry about gout because she had reached the age of 78 and was still generally managing fine. Shirley felt that the different mindset she had now she was older made it easier to cope with the pain. Janette said that, because she was older, she knew herself well and that she could stick to the dietary changes she had made. People’s priorities in terms of managing gout were also sometimes different from their priorities earlier in life. Sometimes this was because they felt they had less time to do what they wanted to with their lives.
Having gout for a number of years means that Jacqui has been able to integrate lifestyle changes into her day-to-day routine. She is always aware, for example, of making sure she drinks enough water. Carole felt that she learnt over time to recognise and deal with flares sooner. Michael felt that, had he got gout when he was younger, it would have had more impact because he would have had a more active lifestyle. 

While many people felt that age and experience had influenced their life with gout in a positive way, some had noticed negative impacts as well. Eddie felt that being older meant that it took longer for his body to recover from attacks. Gerald also felt that gout attacks affected him more since he got older. 
Some people expected to have more health issues as they got older so, when they were diagnosed with gout, they accepted it as one of these conditions. Michael felt that this could sometimes minimise the impact of having gout because it could be seen as just one of the conditions people get as they get older. Shirley felt that this was one reason why her GP did not take her gout as seriously. 

People who got gout at a younger age were often surprised at the diagnosis because they thought it was something that only affected older people. Younger women were particularly likely to find their diagnosis difficult to accept. Both men and women sometimes felt that it was unusual to have gout at a younger age, and had not come across anyone else of a similar age with it. John Z was in his late 20s and working as a doctor when he was diagnosed with gout. He had rarely come across patients with it under the age of 60. (For more see ‘Feelings about the diagnosis of gout’).
Jonathan was diagnosed in his 30s and wondered what impact gout might have on his activities and everyday life. He thought it was important for people diagnosed at a younger age to have access to information about what might happen in the long-term. When Paula was diagnosed, the thought of living with gout for many years worried her. Doctors reassured Tony and Ray that gout could be controlled with daily medication so they did not worry about the prospect of living with it for many years.  (For more see ‘Long-term treatment to lower uric acid and prevent gout attacks and long-term problems’ and ‘Thoughts about the future and long-term effects of gout’).

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Last reviewed December 2016
Last updated December 2016


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