Gout in Women
Women and their
Risk of Developing Gout
Both women and men can develop the painful rheumatic condition known as gout, especially as they get older. There are some behaviors and characteristics that men and women with gout share, and they are obesity, the use of diuretics, alcohol consumption and elevated blood pressure. However some new research that looks specifically at gender has been published which indicates that the likelihood of developing gout is lower in women than in men, even though their levels of uric acid are exactly the same.
Gout is a form of arthritis that occurs as a result of an excess of uric acid in the bloodstream. The most common areas for gout are the toes, ankles and knees and it occurs when hyperuricaemia (high levels of uric acid crystals) develops in the joints and adjacent areas. This results in inflamed, swollen joints and severe pain that can last for several days. Usually one who has experienced gout is susceptible to repeated episodes and can become chronic causing long term problems.
Obesity, Beer and Gout Risk
The aforementioned research was presented by physicians at Boston University School of Medicine and provides some explanation as to how gout develops and affects men and women differently. There were about 2,500 women and 2,000 men who were examined as a subset of the well-documented Framingham Heart Study; a decades-long study of the behaviors and health outcomes of the residents of Framingham, Massachusetts. Of the patients who were examined, about 300 cases of gout were diagnosed, a third of whom were women.
The research showed the following:
1) Risk of gout from obesity was about the same for both men and women.
2) Of the 300 patients with gout, a higher number of women than men were being treated for hypertension with diuretics, drawing attention to these two factors as possible risks.
3) The consumption of more than four drinks per week doubled the risk in men, but tripled it in women. This was especially true for beer consumption, which resulted in a seven-fold increase for women. It isn’t clear why the risk was higher for women, but beer can cause a sharp increase in risk because it contains a significant amount of purine, a compound which metabolizes to uric acid while in the body.
4) Menopausal women who were on hormone replacement (estrogen) therapy seemed to have a lower risk for gout, therefore estrogen is being explored as a possible remedy that reduces the level of uric acid in the bloodstream. Therefore it is presumed that postmenopausal women who do not use therapy could be at higher risk.
Diet and Gout
It has long been believed that people who consume a large amount of meat, especially liver, sweetbreads and other organs which contain high levels of purine, have an increased risk for gout, but there has not yet been any science to support that theory. In general it is more effective to control one’s weight and consumption of alcohol to prevent gout (or other rheumatic conditions for that matter). In fact, being overweight has a tremendous ripple effect with regard to health problems in general, so a good weight loss and exercise strategy is recommended for anyone with this propensity.