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New smartphone app could help prevent gout attacks

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People with gout may soon have access to a smartphone app to help manage their condition and prevent painful gout attacks.

The app has been developed by a research team from the University of New South Wales in Australia and now is set to be tested in a large clinical research study.

Gout is a type of arthritis in which small crystals form inside and around the joints. It causes sudden attacks of severe pain and swelling.

Any joint can be affected by gout, but it most commonly affects joints towards the ends of the limbs, such as the toes, ankles, fingers, wrists and knees.

It’s estimated that around one to two in every 100 people in the UK are affected by gout, but the condition can be managed, and an attack prevented.

“We know that if you reduce the elevated level of uric acid — for instance with medication such as allopurinol or febuxostat — then a painful gout attack can be prevented,” explained research leader Professor Ric Day, from UNSW Medicine’s St Vincent’s Clinical School.

“Our work over the last 30 years has been very much focused on trying to understand gout and developing a therapy. But to make a difference on a large scale, it was time to get our research out in the community.

“That is where the idea of the gout application came in. We are very excited about this app, as it is a new way of helping people with gout. It is a personalised addition to their treatment to help them manage their gout.”

The app was designed in collaboration with GPs and people with gout, and has already been successfully tested in a pilot study.

The larger study will evaluate whether the app helps people manage their gout and prevent a painful attack, said Professor Day.

If the app is effective, it could be a very cost-effective public health intervention to reduce the rate of gout, he added.