Rich diets, sugary drinks and alcohol is pushing more gout sufferers into hospital.
Once dubbed a disease of kings, the debilitating condition is increasingly striking down the country's deprived communities.
In the biggest study of its kind, researchers found more people were suffering from gout in both New Zealand and England.
Hospital admissions from gout rose 5.5% per year over in New Zealand between 1999 and 2009, and rose 7.2% per year in England.
Gout is a type of arthritis caused by the development of crystals of uric acid in and around the joint, often in the feet, causing excruciating pain.
Otago University associate professor Tony Merriman, who assisted on the study, said the increase in hospitalisations show gout is increasing in severity and prevalence.
He said the trend follows similar increases in rates of diabetes, heart disease and kidney problems.
Although genetics play a role in the condition, he said environmental factors are behind the increase in hospital visits.
Sugar, red meat and alcohol are all known to increase the likelihood of gout, he said.
This was a diet once reserved for kings, including Henry VIII who is known to have suffered terrible gout in his later years.
"Back then kings had access to these foods, but it's actually been reversed," Merriman said. "It's now a disease of the lower socio-economic groups."
Associate professor Peter Gow, a gout expert at Middlemore Hospital, said gout caused severe pain in the joints for patients.
"They talk about it feeling like being prodded by red hot pokers or like the flesh is ripping," he said.
Women sufferers reported it being worse than pregnancy, he said.
Diet and exercise can help treat the condition, but medication is often required.
It's important to get on to medication early because the pills can be less effective if delayed, Gow said.
The research paper showed there were 10 241 hospital admissions due to gout in New Zealand over the decade, and a further 34 318 admissions for health problems complicated by gout.
Gout patients admitted to hospital were more likely to be Maori or a Pacific Islanders.
Men made up about three-quarters of those admitted with gout.
The study made headlines in Britain this month after the findings were published medical journal Rheumatology.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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