Gout Risk Factors

There are a number of factors that can increase a person's risk of developing gout. For example, people who take certain medicines -- including niacin, cyclosporine, and outdated tetracycline -- are at an increased risk of developing the disease. Other risk factors include being male, having family members with gout, eating too many foods rich in purines, and having kidney problems.

An Overview of Gout Risk Factors

Gout is caused when levels of uric acid become so high that sharp, needle-like crystals form inside the joint, leading to inflammation. Although there is no one specific cause of gout, there are a number of factors that increase a person's chances of developing gout. These are known as gout risk factors. Some of these risk factors include:
  • An increase in the amount of uric acid produced
  • A decrease in the amount of uric acid removed from the body
  • A combination of these two factors.
As a result, the amount of uric acid in the blood becomes high (known medically as hyperuricemia). While not all people with hyperuricemia will develop gout, having hyperuricemia does increase a person's risk. Also, the higher the uric acid levels in the blood, the greater the chances of developing gout.

Specific Risk Factors for Gout

Some specific risk factors include:
  • Having family members with gout. Up to 18 percent of people with gout have a family history of the disease.
  • Being male.
  • Being overweight or obese. This is because there is more tissue available for turnover or breakdown, which leads to excess uric acid production (see BMI Calculator to learn if your weight is within a healthy range).
  • Drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol not only increases the amount of uric acid made, it also interferes with the removal of uric acid from the body.
  • Eating too many foods rich in purines (see Gout Diet for foods high in purines).
  • Having an enzyme defect that makes it hard for the body to break down purines. This includes conditions such as glucose-6-phosphatase deficiency and fructose-1-phosphate deficiency.
  • Having any of the following conditions:



    • Diuretics (also known as water pills), which are taken to eliminate excess fluid from the body in people with conditions like high blood pressure and congestive heart failure, and which decrease the amount of uric acid passed in the urine


    • Salicylates, or anti-inflammatory medicines made from salicylic acid, such as aspirin



    • Cyclosporine (Gengraf®, Neoral®, Sandimmune®), a medicine used to suppress the body's immune system (the system that protects the body from infection and disease) and control the body's rejection of transplanted organs


    • Levodopa (Larodopa®), a medicine used to support communication along nerve pathways in the treatment of Parkinson's disease



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