Gout Risk Factors and Causes You Need to Know About: A Detailed Guide

If you believe gout happens because of a poor diet or drinking too much alcohol, these risk factors will shock you.

A type of inflammatory arthritis called gout typically occurs all of a sudden. Even though other types of arthritis often start with mild symptoms that get worse over time, gout usually shows up as an "attack" on a joint (usually the big toe) that is very painful. Find out more about additional typical gout symptoms here.

Although gout may appear mysterious to someone in good health before being disabled by sudden pain and swelling, specialists understand how and why gout grows.

Uric Acid and the Onset of Gout

According to Kenneth Saag, MD, professor of medicine in the department of clinical immunology and rheumatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, gout is brought on by an increase in the chemical uric acid. "The body accumulates uric acid, which accumulates in the joints and triggers a severe inflammatory response."

The usual breakdown product of your body's metabolism is uric acid. Uric acid is typically excreted in the urine. Excess uric acid, however, can lead to the development of crystals in one or more joints. The body fights the crystals because it identifies them as being foreign.

Aging can cause your kidneys, which filter waste into the urine, to become less effective, so sometimes this uric acid build-up results from aging. Gout does not just affect the old: For women, gout is more common after menopause, whereas men are most likely to develop it between 30 and 50, which usually occurs in the early fifties.

Aside from age, several other risk factors could increase your chances of having this excruciating condition.

1. Kidney Disease

According to the American Kidney Foundation, there is a 1 in 10 probability that someone with kidney illness may also get gout. This connection has two possible outcomes: Little uric acid crystals can slip through your kidneys and harm them if you initially get gout.

Many kidney disease sufferers are unaware of their condition, especially in the beginning stages. Ask your doctor if a kidney disease test is necessary if you have gout. Learn more about the effects of various types of arthritis on your kidneys.

2. Taking Diuretics for High Blood Pressure

Several forms of medication can be used to treat high blood pressure, or hypertension, although diuretics are frequently chosen. These medications, also known as "water pills," cause your kidneys to flush out extra fluid, which lowers the amount of blood flowing through your veins and arteries and blood pressure. The problem is that when less fluid is present, it is more difficult to dissolve things, including uric acid. According to Dr. Saag, this is why those who use diuretics have a higher risk of developing gout.

3. Obesity

Because uric acid production increases as you consume more, being overweight or obese is a significant risk factor for gout, according to Dr. Saag. According to research, 1–2% of individuals with an average body mass index (BMI) get gout. If your BMI falls into the overweight range, which percentage increases to 3%; if it falls into the obese range, it expands to 5 to 7%.

Obesity increases a person's risk of developing diabetes, and diabetes increases a person's risk of developing gout (and vice versa).

4. Drinking Alcohol in Excess

Purines, organic compounds your body breaks down into uric acid, are present in high concentrations in beer, wine, and spirits. Gout is more common in those who drink alcohol and eat many foods high in purines, such as red meat and seafood. These foods are high in purines and should be avoided if you have gout.

Nevertheless, if you already have gout, altering your diet generally won't help. While excessive red meat and seafood consumption is encouraged, Dr. Saag notes that frequent dietary modifications are insufficient to lower uric acid levels in those with gout.

5. Too Much Fructose

A higher risk of gout has also been linked to eating a lot of fructose, a form of sugar. According to research, males who frequently drink ordinary (non-diet) soft drinks are at risk since these drinks contain a lot of high-fructose corn syrup. It could also be harmful to consume a lot of fruit juice.

6. Family History

There is a higher-than-expected probability that you will develop gout if your parents did. You might have inherited one of the "more minor genetic variants" that affect how the body eliminates uric acid.

Consult a medical professional if you believe that your foot pain or other symptoms could be caused by gout. Visiting during a flare-up is crucial so your doctor can confirm the diagnosis by checking for uric acid crystals in the joint.

Gout flare-ups can grow more frequently, spread to other joints, and result in tophi, which are hard lumps that form in the joint if you don't treat the condition. Chronic gouty arthritis can develop from untreated gout, resulting in lifelong joint damage, deformity, and excruciating agony.

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