Complications of Gout

Updated on August 23, 2017
Spiro Koulouris profile image

The author has suffered from gout since the age of 26. He enjoys educating others about how to manage this condition on his blog GoutandYou.

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Gout Complications

Coping with gout symptoms is already tough enough, but things can get worse when other gout complications creep in. It thus makes it vitally important for gout sufferers to be on the lookout for the known complications to avoid more pain and suffering. Here are some of the common complications of gout which every sufferer ought to know about.

Gout and Diabetes

It is a common trend that most gout sufferers also suffer from diabetes or they eventually will. A 2008 study published in Rheumatology concluded that those men with gout and a high cardiovascular profile had an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

This is deduced from the fact that both conditions have similar predisposing factors and having one condition increases the risks of having the other. For instance, diabetes is linked to obesity, hypertension, high blood pressure and little exercise. Gout, on the other hand, comes about as a result of the crystallization of excess uric acid in the joints which then comes pain and inflammation. The causes for the crystallization of excess uric acid are also believed to be the same as those which lead to diabetes.

Gout and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis has very similar symptoms to gout and has in very many occasions been mistaken to be gout. It is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues instead of foreign matters such as viruses and bacteria. In particular, the condition affects the synovium, which is the thin membrane that lines all the joints in the body. RA will result into intense pains at the joints as well as inflammation which can be experienced in different parts of the body. Though not necessarily a common complication for gout sufferers, there are higher chances of RA also affecting gout patients.

In a Mayo Clinic study found that patients with rheumatoid arthritis can also get gout. Researchers studied 813 patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis between 1980 and 2007 and followed them as long as they were alive and in the county. Twenty-two patients developed gout over the study period, most often in the big toe. Gout was more common in patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis from 1995 on.

Gout and Tophi

Tophi is a condition that might ensue following several years of suffering from gout. It is a condition caused by the formation of solid lumps of uric acid which then get deposited under the skin of the fingers, elbows, hands, and toes. Unlike the normal gout, instead of crystals of uric acid being deposited on the joints, it is the solid lumps that get deposited and these tend to be very painful and can sometimes be completely unbearable.

There are two main approaches for preventing this condition from happening. The first approach is to take medications for reducing the levels of uric acid in the body and these include drugs such as febuxostat and allopurinol. The second approach is to effect lifestyle changes such as losing weight.

Damages to the Joints

Ignoring gout treatment or failing to manage the condition properly may make the disease get into a more advanced stage known as chronic tophaceous gout. This comes about when large tophi develops around the joints and tendons leading to their dire dilapidation, deformity of the joints and chronic pain. The most effective way to stop the gout from advancing to this stage is to keep the gout in control by managing the uric acid levels through the appropriate medication and effecting the necessary lifestyle changes such as getting more engaged physically, avoiding alcohol and reducing your intake of purine-rich foods. If the condition has already developed, then surgery may be recommended to try and restore the damaged joints.

Heart Attack

Heart attack is another gout complication worth taking note of, especially if you smoke or have a family history of heart attacks. Studies show that gout sufferers have 26% increased chances of getting heart attack, though scientists have yet to establish the exact linkage between the two. However, it is known that elevated levels of uric acid in the body is a contributory factor to heart conditions.

Additional, gout medications may also predispose the patients to a myriad of heart conditions, including sudden attacks. For instance, long term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may increase one’s risks of having a heart attack. But the good news is that gout sufferers can lower their chances of heart attacks by observing the same steps needed to control gout, which principally involves lowering the levels of uric acid in the body and adapting to healthier lifestyles.

Gout and Kidney Problems

About 40% of gout patients are also known to suffer from various kidney problems. One of the complications is kidney stones which comes about when urine becomes too concentrated and crystallizes to form kidney stones. The presence of the stones will be noticed when they begin to migrate down the ureter, during which, they will cause intense pain. The continued buildup of the stones may ultimately lead to further complications, including kidney failure. Just like with managing other complications associated to gout, it is of fundamental importance for one to reduce the levels of uric acid in the body to avoid kidney problems. It is also advisable to seek doctor’s advice for the necessary medications in case the problems have already developed.

Other Gout Complications

In addition to the above, other conditions associated with long term gout suffering include lung complications, psoriasis, high blood pressure, dry eye syndrome and cataracts.

© 2017 Spiro Koulouris

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