Risk Factors for Gout

Gout is a joint related disease that develops in people who have high levels of uric acid in the blood. The acid can form needle-like crystals that localize in the joints and articular tissue and cause sudden, severe episodes of pain, redness, swelling, warmth and tenderness. There are a number of things that can cause gout and in most cases these causation factors contribute to the increase of uric acid levels in the blood.

Gout occurs in about 4% of adults in America and is more common amongst men than women with a ratio of 3:1. Individuals who are more likely to develop gout have high levels of uric acid in the body. There are 8 common risk factors for gout and these risk factors can increase your likelihood for this painful joint disease.

  • Genes
  • In some cases, patients who suffer from gout have a family history of the joint disease. In a study conducted by the MRC Humans Genetics Unit, individuals who develop gout have a gene variant that is linked with low levels of uric acid excretion. This means that those individuals with a family history of gout have a gene that inhibits their ability to effectively remove uric acid in the body.

  • Gender and Age
  • Gout is more common among men than women - about 6 million men versus 2 million women are affected with gout. It is believed that the presence of higher levels of estrogen protect women from gout until they experience menopause where the sudden drop can cause their uric acid levels to approach that of men. Men are more likely to develop gout at an earlier age, in some cases as early as 20 to 50 - women on the other hand are likely to develop signs and symptoms after menopause.

  • Diet
  • Eating a diet that is high in meats and seafood and high in beverages that contain fructose has been linked to higher levels or uric acid and gout. This is due to the high purine content in certain foods, purines are compounds that when broken down create uric acid, thus contributing to the increase amount of acid in your blood.

  • Obesity
  • If you are overweight or obese, your body is more likely to produce more uric acids and your kidneys have difficulty keeping up with the dramatic increase. A combination of poor kidney function and increased uric acid levels increases your risk of gout.

  • Alcohol Consumption
  • Alcohol, specifically beer is known to be high in purines and therefore contributes to the increase of uric acid and your risk of gout. Drinking more than two liquor drinks or two beers a day has been linked to increased uric acid levels. It's best to either cut these beverages out of your diet or practice sensible moderation.

  • Medical Conditions
  • Certain diseases and conditions contribute to your likelihood of developing gout. If left untreated, they can influence your uric acid levels or compromise the efficiency of your kidneys. These medical conditions include high blood pressure, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart and kidney disease.

  • Medications
  • Certain medications can increase your risk of gout. Diuretics or 'water pills' that are taken for high blood pressure can raise uric acid levels due to its influence on your fluid levels; additionally drugs that suppress the immune system or affect your metabolic system can increase your uric acid levels. Discuss with your doctor the possibility of gout when taking medications, especially if you are prone or at risk of a gout attack.

  • Recent Surgery or Trauma
  • Recent surgery such as bypass gastric surgery or surgery on the joints can increase your likelihood of developing gout. Additionally, if you have suffered a joint injury, that specific location can be a likely location for gout if a flare-up occurs.