He can't wave a wand and make it go away, but Kaitaia pharmacist Garvin Shackleton has good news for gout sufferers — it's not all their fault.

"For years people have been told that they've got gout because they're eating the wrong things, be it tomatoes, red meat, seafood or drinking too much beer, but that doesn't seem to be entirely true," Mr Shackleton said.

"Diet can certainly have an effect, but as a trigger rather than a cause. We now know that diet is about 20 per cent of the problem. The other 80 per cent is genetic."

The level of uric acid in the blood, which at high levels could lead to the formation of crystals, causing often debilitating pain in the joints (especially the toes, knees, elbows, wrists and fingers), could be reduced with medication, but gout, he said, was a long-term condition, and freedom from pain did not mean it had gone away.


And, long-term, it could be a precursor for seriously life-shortening conditions including kidney disease, heart disease and diabetes.

All that and more would be explained at Te Ahu in Kaitaia next month (Thursday November 28, starting at 5.30pm), Mr Shackleton said, at a presentation hosted by Mahi Tahi (the Northland PHO), where Stuart Selkirk and others would provide the latest information, and offer free uric acid tests.

"There's a lot that can be done to ease the pain of gout, which is actually a form of arthritis, but there still a lot we don't know," he added.

"That includes why Māori and Pasifika are are the most susceptible people in the world, and why Māori in the Far North seem to be the most susceptible of all. Nor is it clear why men are vastly more prone to gout than women, although some women do suffer from it."

Everyone would be welcome at Te Ahu on November 28, and to have their uric acid tested to establish whether they had any cause for concern, or were in need of treatment.