Gout rarely exists in isolation; there is a high prevalence of gout in patients who have cardiovascular and other metabolic diseases. Once gout is controlled with medication, it’s easier to treat the comorbidities and vice versa.
However, if left untreated, gout can lead to permanent joint damage and destruction of tissue. There are other disorders associated with untreated gout, which is why gaining control of the disease early is important. Extensive destruction of joints and large tophi (deposits of urate crystals that settle under the skin in the joints and tendons) can lead to deformities, particularly in the hands and feet, and to loss of normal use.
Everyone with gout has at least one or two of the eight or nine comorbidities associated with gout.
Many have three or four other health conditions!
Kidney stones, which can also be extremely painful, are often composed of uric acid. They may block the urinary tract and, if left untreated, can result in infection and kidney damage. About one out of five gout sufferers will develop kidney stones. Hyperuricemia and gout can be associated with decreased kidney function.
Obesity is a condition that exists when someone carries excess body fat that is severely out of proportion for their height. An obese person is three 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.
While gout is a lifelong condition, it can be managed – or even completely controlled – by sticking with a proper treatment plan that combines the right medication with diet and lifestyle changes. Because gout is associated with other serious health issues, an accurate diagnosis and ongoing management is critical.
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 hyperuricemia may worsen insulin resistance. The recommended modifications to ensure a healthy diet and appropriate activity level for managing gout are generally good for preventing or treating diabetes.
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. 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.