Gout on the Rise in the U.S.

Gout Prevalence Up in the Past 20 years, Now Affects 4% of Americans

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

July 28, 2011 -- Gout has become more common in the United States in the past two decades, in part because of the nation's obesity crisis and a greater frequency of high blood pressure, new research indicates.

Gout, a type of arthritis that occurs when uric acid crystals build up in the joints, was also found to be more common in men than in women.

The condition now affects about 8.3 million people, or 4% of the population. And the risk of getting gout increases with age.

Uric Acid Levels Also Increasing in Americans

Gout, an inflammatory arthritis triggered by crystallization of uric acid inside the joints, causes swelling and severe pain.

The study says the frequency of increased uric acid levels in the blood also rose in the past 20 years, and that it affects about 43.3 million adults (21% of adults) in the U.S.

Medical evidence indicates that gout is associated with metabolic syndrome -- a group of health conditions characterized by obesity, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and blood fat issues -- and may increase risk of heart attack and diabetes.

The researchers say the obesity epidemic and growing hypertension rates seem to be associated with increased cases of gout.

The research team examined data from the latest National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey on 5,707 people, conducted in 2007-2008, comparing that information with comparable statistics from 1988 to 1994.

Participants were asked about their history of gout and whether the condition had been diagnosed by a health care professional.

Compared to the data from 1988 to 1994, the frequency of gout was 1% higher and the frequency of elevated uric acid levels 3% higher.

In 2007-2008, 6% of men and 2% of women had a diagnosis of gout. High uric acid levels occurred in 21.2% of men and 21.6% of women.

Gout and Uric Acid Levels Could Be Managed Better in U.S.

Researchers say in the study that the prevalence of gout in the U.S. has more than doubled since the 1960s. They say risk factors for gout that can be changed should be identified and steps taken to prevent gout. Modifiable risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, and alcohol intake. Also, the researchers recommend daily exercise and limiting intake of red meat and sugary beverages.

The study's senior investigator, Hyon Choi, MD, DrPH, professor of medicine at Boston University, revealed that he has received research funding from several pharmaceutical companies. Bhavik J. Pandya, PharmD, one of his fellow researchers, also has received funds from pharmaceutical concerns.

The study is published in Arthritis & Rheumatism, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology.


Gout Attack Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Diet See Slideshow

News release, Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Zhu, Y. Arthritis & Rheumatism, published online July 28, 2011.

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