Why do I keep getting gout? is a very common query on Google and other search engines. And what this tells us is that, not only do people suffer from gout, they suffer from recurring gout, which is much worse.
You see, it’s a fact that once you have had the misfortune to get gout once, your chances of suffering other gout attacks down the road are much, much higher.
And the key problem with this is that, apart from the excruciating pain that accompanies each attack, recurring gout episodes may eventually be the cause of some serious health issues. Typical of these are permanently damaged joints, kidney disease, kidney stones, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and even a higher risk of early death!
So why do you keep getting gout?
The condition we call gout is caused by the appearance of microscopic crystals in your joints. These are needle-like in character and usually form in your big toe most of the time, although you can get gout in any part of your body, e.g. your ankle, side of your foot, knee, finger, hand, elbow, etc.
The crystals appear when the conditions are right for their formation. This is usually when you have high uric acid levels in your bloodstream. Now, uric acid is just a natural byproduct of your body’s metabolization and is produced when chemical compounds called ‘purines’ breakdown as part of that process.
But as well as existing in our bodies, purines also exist naturally in our foods. And some foods have higher concentrations of purines than others. Unfortunately, the foods with the high and very high levels are exactly the foods that we all love, e.g. red meat, game, kidneys, liver, seafood, poultry, yeast products, legumes, etc.
However, not everyone who eats a typical western diet keeps getting gout, or indeed, ever gets gout. So why is this?
The thing is that the kidneys usually process the uric acid formed in the body and excrete the excess out of your system through urine with a little via the stools. When the kidneys are operating efficiently, there are no ‘high’ uric acid levels in the blood.
But if the kidneys are not working effectively enough to process this uric acid, or, the body is manufacturing far too much uric acid for even healthy kidneys to deal with, the result is high uric acid. This is a condition called ‘hyperuricemia’ and it’s this that leads to crystal formation and thus gout.
So what are the factors that increase your risk of having high uric acid and thus of your getting gout?
(1) The first was alluded to above; diet. Eating high purine foods definitely increases your risk. But so does drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, particularly in the case of beer. Alcohol interferes with uric acid removal and so can lead to hyperuricemia.
(2) Being overweight is another significant risk factor for two reasons. The first is that being overweight is usually a result of eating too much of the food types that are high in purines. And secondly, being overweight means that there is just so much more tissue available for the body’s metabolization process to breakdown into uric acid.
(3) If you have a family history of arthritis and / or gout, then you will have a higher propensity to suffer from gout attacks too. Around 25% of gout sufferers have a family history of gout or arthritis.
(4) Medical conditions and even some medicines can increase your risk of getting gout. Things such as diabetes, hypertension, arteriosclerosis, hyperlipidemia, and chemotherapy, can lead to gout. And medicines like aspirin, niacin, levedopa, cyclosporine, and diuretic medicines can also trigger gout.
(5) Then we come to your age and sex. Most men (but not all) usually first develop gout between the ages of 30 and 50, whilst in women it’s usually after age 50 particularly after the menopause. Overall, men get gout more than women. This is probably because they have higher uric acid levels to start with.
The key for you is to recognize that you have to prevent your recurring gout attacks causing serious health problems, perhaps even early death.