Gout & Other Health Issues
Left untreated, gout can lead to permanent joint damage as well as other health problems such as kidney stones. Extensive destruction of the joints and large collections of uric acid under the skin, called tophi, can lead to deformities – particularly to the hands and feet – and lead to loss of normal use.
Obesity is a condition that exists when someone carries extra body fat that is severely out of proportion to their height. An obese person is four times more likely to develop gout compared to someone with a normal body weight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a free BMI (Body Mass Index) Calculator to help you determine if you are at a healthy weight or are at risk for obesity. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your weight or BMI.
Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose (sugar) levels are above normal, due to either a lack of insulin in the blood or resistance to the insulin. Some research suggests that insulin resistance may even play a role in the development of gout – and that high uric acid levels, known as hyperuricemia, may worsen insulin resistance. By controlling blood sugar, people with diabetes can help to manage their uric acid levels and make their gout easier to control.
Heart problems – including high blood pressure, blocked arteries and heart failure – are associated with gout. Hyperuricemia alone is associated with a higher risk of death and complications from these conditions. Recent research from the University of Oxford has shown that having gout doubles a person’s risk for heart attack and stroke. Additional research published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases has shown that women with gout are 3.5 times as likely to have a heart attack as men.
Approximately one in five gout sufferers will develop kidney stones. Often composed of uric acid, kidney stones are extremely painful. They may block the urinary tract and, if left untreated, can result in infection and damage to the kidneys. Hyperuricemia and gout can also be associated with decreased kidney function. If you have kidney disease, it is important to monitor your kidney function.