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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Patient’s bout with gout easing with new Cairns clinic

FORMER chef Jason Turner is used to giving orders in the kitchen, but when he was diagnosed with metabolic arthritis – commonly known as gout – he found following the advice of clinicians wasn’t that easy.

52-year-old Jason, who grew up in Armidale in northern NSW and now lives on the Atherton Tablelands, started experiencing lower joint pain when he was 19 years old.

He said keeping his gout in check was a challenge, which has only been made easier with Cairns Hospital’s new nurse-led gout clinic.

“Sometimes we think we know better, but I’ve been proven wrong,” he said.

With regular clinical intervention, and a strict medication regime, Jason has seen a significant improvement in his condition.

“I had swelling and throbbing in my big toe and ankle, that basically lasted until I was about 30-35,” he said.

“After that, it progressively got worse until we ended up where we are now.”

Gout is a type of arthritis caused by elevated levels of uric acid in the blood which, if left untreated, deposits into the joints and forms crystals that cause painful swollen joints.

As a professional chef, Jason found it became increasingly difficult for him to stand for extended periods, and as the swelling and pain spread to his hands, leaving him unable to cut up vegetables or even use tongs, he eventually had to leave the profession that he loved.

“My problem has always been, if the gout’s really playing up, I’d say to myself ‘instead of taking pain relief, I’ll just sit back for the day and hopefully it will be better tomorrow,” he said.

“But if I take the pain medication every day, then realistically it will build up and make life better.

“As a head chef, I was used to telling others what to do but all of a sudden, I was the one being told what to do.

“I recently went to a wedding, where I hadn’t seen family for more than two years, and my mother and aunt were there — they couldn’t get over how much better I looked, without as much swelling.”

It is estimated that 1.5 per cent of Australia’s population lives with gout, which is an often-misunderstood condition.

Cairns Hospital Clinical Nurse Consultant Sabina Schot – who leads the gout clinic – said the condition affected more men than women, and the risk increased with age.

She said the dedicated clinic helped patients better understand their condition, as she was able to see them more frequently.

“Gout can be cured with urate-lowering therapy in conjunction with regular check-ups, blood tests and medication titration,” she said.

“And because I’m able to see patients more frequently – usually every 6 weeks – we can provide counselling and education for them.

“As patients are able to spend more time with us through this clinic, we have seen many success stories.”

Patients can access the nurse-led gout clinic with a referral from a GP to Cairns Hospital’s rheumatology department.

Keep up with the latest news in Cairns and the Far North, and check out some of our top stories this week: Construction starts in Cairns Hospital maternity unit and New laws around affirmative consent.

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