(BPT) - Gout – only rich, old men get it, right? Wrong! The truth is, gout can affect both men and women of all ages, economic standing and backgrounds. More than 8.3 million American adults have gout, and the incidence and prevalence of the disease are on the rise.

Gout is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis, even more common than rheumatoid arthritis. Specifically, gout is a chronic, progressive, disease characterized by a buildup of serum uric acid (sUA) in the blood. sUA is a chemical that is created when the body breaks down substances called purines, which are naturally in the body and can also be found in some foods and drinks.

Gout Awareness Day is May 22, allowing for Americans to learn more about gout, its risk factors and causes, as well as the long-term health impact associated with the disease.

The pain from gout flares is often unbearable and can disrupt daily life. It can cause a patient to miss work, prevent him or her from taking part in normal daily activities or hobbies, and can lead to permanent damage to the body if not properly managed.

Dr Paul Doghramji, from Collegeville Family Practice in Pennsylvania, says there are many misconceptions about gout.

“Most people think gout only happens in overweight older men, or that it’s just a painful big toe that begins suddenly and goes away in a few days,” says Doghramji. “The truth is that gout occurs in women as well as men, and can be very disruptive to daily life. Over time, uric acid crystals can deposit throughout the body in places like the joints and soft tissues which can lead to long-term health problems like joint and kidney damage.”

Misperceptions about gout continue to persist. Here are some commonly held gout myths and the real facts about this disease:

Myth No. 1: A poor diet and over-indulgence cause gout

Fact No. 1: While some foods can trigger a gout flare, the real cause of gout is high levels of uric acid in the blood. In a majority of patients this is primarily because the kidneys are not able to efficiently remove uric acid from the body.

Myth No. 2: Gout is a disease of the Middle Ages and not common in today’s society

Fact No. 2: There are 8.3 million people with gout in the US and a study showed that this disease has increased 7 fold in the past 50 years! Gout is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis, even more common than rheumatoid arthritis.

Myth No. 3: Gout doesn’t get any worse than the painful flare

Fact No. 3: Gout is more serious than people think! It is a long-lasting condition that can get worse over time. When uric acid levels remain high, uric acid crystals can form and collect in the joints. Over time, these crystals can lead to serious consequences such as more frequent flares, the formation of lumps of uric acid that form under the skin called tophi, bone and joint erosion, and kidney damage.

Myth No. 4: Patients only need to treat the painful flares

Fact No. 4: Whether patients are experiencing symptoms or not, it’s still important to keep uric acid at a healthy level. Guidelines suggest that most patients with gout keep their uric acid level below 6 mg/dL (milligrams of uric acid per deciliter of blood in the body). Some patients who have severe gout symptoms may have their doctor recommend keeping their uric acid level under 5 mg/dL. Ongoing monitoring helps patients ensure their uric acid levels are consistently under control, ultimately reducing the number of flares and appropriately managing their gout.

To learn more about gout, visit goutisserious.com and get the facts.