The control of gout depends in great measure on lowering excess stores of urate in the body. Urate is a salt derived from uric acid, and some people have difficulty metabolizing uric acid properly. The result is that urate can build up in tissues or crystallize in the joints, which can lead to painful gout.
Lowering excess amounts of urate can prevent gout flares. Physicians who treat gout normally consider that the level of uric acid in the blood should be below 6 mg/dl. That level is considered a “target serum urate goal.”
Recently, a team of researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center studied how well people with gout understood their condition. Specifically, they wondered if their patients knew how to achieve and maintain a recommended target serum urate goal. The researchers conducted their study through a Veterans Affairs medical center, mailing questionnaires to more than 600 people with gout.
Sixty-two percent of the questionnaires were answered, and the results were not especially encouraging. Most of the respondents answered questions about gout correctly, but only 14% knew their target serum urate goal. The researchers also discovered that patients who received their drug prescriptions from a rheumatologist were more likely to know their goals than those who got them from a general practitioner.
This led the researchers to conclude that gout patients have a knowledge deficit about serum level goals and that health-care providers appear to be neglecting “an important and underutilized concept.” The conclusion for those with gout, however, would seem to be pretty straightforward: if they’re not familiar with their target serum urate goals, they need to ask.