Historical perceptions and myths about gout

People commonly think that gout is caused by eating rich foods and drinking too much alcohol, although this is not the case for many people with gout today. In the past, these lifestyles were often associated with rich people or kings like Henry VIII. The people we spoke to often said that their friends or relatives also had these ideas about gout and made jokes about their lifestyles. 
A few thought that gout was a historical condition that people did not get any more. While diet can sometimes play a part in making attacks more likely, for most people gout is caused by a combination of their genetic makeup, their other health conditions, or the tablets they take (for more see ‘Causes of gout’).
Some people felt that their friends and family were very sympathetic and understanding when they found out they had gout. However, they did not always know a lot about it. Carole said that people often don’t know that gout is a form of arthritis. Some tried to educate their friends and family about gout. A few found this worked well, but others felt that people did not believe them. Simon felt that people were more sympathetic and took gout seriously when they could see he was in severe pain (for more see ‘Sources of support for gout’).
People often thought that myths about gout were reinforced by cartoons that made fun of rich or well-known people who had it. These images promoted the idea that gout was self-inflicted and, therefore, deserved no sympathy. 
Some people found it frustrating when others made jokes about gout without understanding the actual causes of the condition and how painful it could be. Eddie thinks it can be hurtful when people make jokes about gout. Several people said that they did not understand why others thought it was alright to make fun of people with gout when they would not do the same about other forms of arthritis, heart disease, cancer or other health issues. 
Some people found it embarrassing to talk to others about having gout because of the stereotypes associated with it. Others did not feel at all embarrassed because they knew they had done nothing to cause it. Vic’s great aunts were ashamed of having gout because they were tee-total but knew that people might think they had gout because of drinking alcohol. Other people found it amusing that they had gout when they did not fit with any of the stereotypes about it. (For more see ‘Everyday life with gout’).
Simon thinks that the stereotypes about gout are changing because of more recent articles about it in the press. He feels that people now know more about gout and are more aware of it. Many people thought that greater public awareness about the pain and causes of gout was needed. Hazel felt that it would be good if other people knew more about gout so that she did not have to keep explaining it.

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Last reviewed December 2016


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