2. Myth: Women aren't afflicted by gout.
Truth: Men and women alike can develop the disease, although men are more vulnerable earlier in life. "Gout is 10 times more common in men than in women, until women reach menopause. The incidence of new cases of gout in men and women tends to equal out after age 60 or so," says Herbert Baraf, M.D., clinical professor of medicine at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Sign up for the AARP Health Newsletter.
3. Myth: Gout pain always attacks the big toe.
Truth: Gout occurs when uric acid builds up in the blood, forming crystals that lodge in and inflame joints. It's true that gout often first attacks the joints of the big toe, but it can also occur in the knees, ankles, feet and hands. In women with osteoarthritis, for example, gout pain commonly starts in the small joints of the hands. Although the first attacks often involve only one or two joints, over time multiple joints become affected. If the disease isn't treated, it can cause permanent damage.
4. Myth: If you stay away from liver and alcohol, you'll avoid gout attacks.
Truth: Alcoholic drinks — especially beer — and organ meats such as liver and some fish, including anchovies and sardines, are very high in a class of natural substances known as purines. When the body breaks down purines it creates uric acid, so eating a lot of purine-rich foods does increase the risk of an attack. But while avoiding these foods may reduce attacks, it won't halt them, says Reveille.
Next: Can gout kill you? »