One of the more than 100 types of arthritis, gout settles into the joint on your big toe and causes excruciating pain. It used to be called the “disease of kings” because it often attacked the wealthy. Of course, gout can’t respond to your bank balance, but it can and does respond to what you put in your body, and those with large disposable incomes are most likely to indulge in rich foods and alcohol — two contributors to gout.
If gout runs in your family or you have kidney disease, you’re more likely than others to suffer from gout, but if you’re significantly overweight or obese, you’re on that list, too.
At Dan Preece, DMP, and Darren Groberg, DPM, a branch of Utah Musculoskeletal Specialists in Salt Lake City, Utah, we see the connection between obesity and gout every day, and we want our patients to know that weight-related gout is preventable and treatable. Here’s what you need to know.
Causes of gout
Gout occurs when you have too much uric acid in your body, a condition called hyperuricemia. This excess uric acid can form sharp crystals that get lodged in your joints — the big toe is the most frequent target, but gout can affect your foot, ankle, knee, or even the joints of your hands, wrists, and elbows.
Men produce more uric acid than women, so they tend to get gout more often, but women catch up with them during menopause, so the prevalence evens out.
In addition to your sex, certain other factors put you at risk for gout, including congestive heart failure, genetics, and kidney disease. Certain medications and supplements, as well as chemotherapy treatments, can also predispose you to high levels of uric acid and make you vulnerable to gout.
There’s another subset of risk factors associated with gout — hypertension, diabetes, and poor diet choices — that also has a direct impact on your weight, which explains, in part, why obesity and gout go hand in hand. Here’s why carrying around too much weight can lead to gout in your joints.
How fat leads to gout
Obesity and gout have a close relationship — where there’s one, there’s usually the other. Many studies have proven the connection, and findings show that your chance of getting gout goes up 55% every time your body mass index (BMI) goes up 5 points. The reason fat leads to gout is two-fold.
The kidney connection
Whenever you eat foods rich in purines — a compound found in shellfish, red meat, and beer — your kidneys go to work producing uric acid to break it down. But when you’re overweight, your kidneys don’t function effectively, and uric acid builds up and gout sets in. So, if you’re overweight and you consume lots of beef, beer, and lobster, you’re a prime candidate for gout.
The belly connection
We’ve established that being obese puts you at risk for gout, but even if you’re not visibly overweight, you may be carrying a certain type of fat called visceral fat around your organs, which accumulates in your belly and is harder than fat in other places. Visceral fat produces a flood of inflammatory chemicals that can trigger the onset of gout.
Will weight loss reduce my gout symptoms?
Yes! The good news is that you can control weight-related gout. Studies show that people who have gained weight over the years tend to get gout more often than those who maintain a healthy weight. It also showed that people who lose excess weight are less likely to get gout and have milder and less frequent symptoms if they already have gout.
Dr. Preece and Dr. Groberg can help you lower your uric acid levels and make gout-improving dietary changes to keep your symptoms under control.
If you have gout and need help managing the pain and flare-ups, schedule an appointment with our gout specialists by calling our office or booking online today.