The causes of gout in men — and women for that matter — are needle-like uric acid crystals that have been deposited in the joints, tendons and surrounding tissue.
Your body’s natural inflammatory response to these are really what causes the symptoms of gout; redness, heat, inflammation, stiffness, swelling, and, horrible pain.
Uric acid crystals form when there are higher-than-normal levels of uric acid in the bloodstream. This condition of elevated uric acid is called “hyperuricemia.”
Uric acid is actually a byproduct of the breakdown of natural chemical compounds in our bodies’ cells called “purines.”
These are extremely important to us because they help to convert genes into protein, food into energy, aid muscle contraction, help eliminate excess nitrogen, and, help protect against cancer-causing agents.
During this process they breakdown completely and uric acid is formed as a result. This then circulates around the bloodstream. But some uric acid is beneficial because it helps to look after, and repair, blood vessel linings, etc.
Normally, your kidneys keep uric acid at these healthy levels by processing the uric acid and excreting the excess out of your system via urine, with a small amount via stools.
Sometimes, though, either because there is too much uric acid being produced, or, your kidneys aren’t working well enough, excess uric acid is retained in the blood, leading to hyperuricemia and hence gout.
So, although the body’s natural inflammatory response causes the symptoms, the root cause is actually high uric acid levels in the blood.
Risk Factors for Gout in Men
Men are at a higher risk of contracting gout than women. Their uric acid levels tend to be relatively higher than women’s. And they typically first get gout between the ages of 30 and 50 years, whereas women tend to be more prone to gout attacks after the menopause.
Family history has an impact on your risk of getting gout. Research has shown that 25% of people who have gout have a family history of gout or arthritis. Gout is a form of arthritis and is responsible for some 5% of all arthritis cases.
Your lifestyle can also help to trigger gout…
For example, drinking alcohol regularly can cause hyperuricemia because alcohol — particularly beer — works against the efficient excretion of uric acid from your body, thus leading to hyperuricemia, the cause of gout.
Also, if you eat lots of fatty red meat, poultry, seafood and other high protein foods, you are more prone to gout. This is because purines, as described earlier, also exist in our foods at varying concentrations. And, generally speaking, high protein foods have high levels of purines in them. So your diet is a key risk factor.
As is your weight. If you are overweight, your risk is increased because there are more cells containing more purines which then produce more uric acid in your system. And often your weight is a function of eating a lot of the foods mentioned above, so the two act together to raise the risk even more.
But underlying medical conditions and even some medications can raise the risk of gout, e.g. things like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and even chemotherapy. Medication such as aspirin, and diuretics used to treat high blood pressure, heart disease, etc., can also raise the risk.
So, although your body’s natural inflammatory response causes the symptoms of gout, there are many issues that need to be considered when assessing the risk of a first gout attack or continuing gout attacks. Note: Once having suffered your first gout attack your risk of recurring gout is very high.