Friend or Family Member of Someone With Gout? Here’s How to Help

If you’re the friend or family member of someone with gout, the best way to help is to first better understand the disease and the physical and emotional toll it can take on people. Then you can work out the best way to lend your support, depending on your relationship.

What Gout is Like

Gout attacks are painful. In a recent survey, people with gout said the pain was like that of a severe burn, breaking a bone or glass piercing their skin. It can be intolerable. And even though gout pain is usually the worst in the first 24 hours of an attack, symptoms can take as long as 10 days to completely subside.

Gout is a form of arthritis and sometimes it’s genetic. It has four distinct stages, and can progressively get worse if not treated. It’s important to take this disease seriously. Once you do that, you can encourage your friend or family member to follow a treatment plan and make healthy lifestyle choices to help manage the disease.

What Friends and Family Can Do

If you’re close:

  • Be there to help: Be prepared to provide care and assistance with everyday tasks when your loved one is going through an attack.
  • Talk about it: People with gout often try to be stoic or hide feelings of shame or embarrassment. They often feel guilty about having gout, even though lifestyle choices are only part of the reason why they have it. Start the conversation and talk it through.
  • Don’t blame or judge: Gout is a form of arthritis, not a result of drinking or over-indulgence. Be sensitive to what your loved one is going through.
  • Cheer successes: Provide encouragement and reminders—to take medications, exercise and eat right.
  • Be patient: Following a treatment plan and making lifestyle changes isn’t easy—best not to criticize mistakes, but look for ways to encourage your loved one to stick to it.
  • Create a fail-proof environment: Help make healthy lifestyle choices easier by not keeping sugary beverages in the fridge or verboten foods in the cupboard.

If you’re a friend:

  • Work harder to keep in touch: People with gout sometimes feel isolated when attacks prevent them from enjoying their usual social life or sports. Help your friend feel like he or she is still in the loop.
  • Offer praise: Tackling gout is tough. Give your friend props for working on it.
  • Don’t avoid the subject: Everyone appreciates being asked how things are going. Casually raise the topic and see if your friend wants to talk.
  • Understand the food and drink issues: It’s socially awkward to be offered something you can’t have. Ask your friend what he or she can eat and drink, and make sure you have appropriate options on hand when your friend visits.