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Risk factors for gout

TAIPEI, TAIWAN. Gout is a painful illness that, like arthritis, causes joint inflammation with acute pain, swelling, redness, and heat. The main joint on the large toe is the most likely target, but the knee, elbow, and thumb joints can also be involved. Gout is caused by uric acid crystallizing in the joints. Researchers at the Veterans General Hospital have just completed an investigation that confirms that a high blood level of uric acid is the main cause of gout attacks. Their study involved 223 men with elevated uric acid levels (greater than 7.0 mg/dL) who were followed for five years. During this time 42 of the men (19 per cent) had a gout attack. The risk of having an attack was found to be far greater among men with a high uric acid level (61 per cent for men with a level above 9.0 mg/dL and 11 per cent for men with a level below 8.0 mg/dL).

Excessive alcohol consumption (especially if infrequent) combined with a uric acid level above 8 mg/dL was also predictive of an increased risk for an attack as was obesity and the use of diuretics (thiazides). Editor's Note: Although there is a strong genetic component to gout many patients can eliminate attacks by avoiding foods which produce uric acid in the body (rich foods, coffee, sugar, white flour products, and purine-rich foods such as red meats, shellfish, organ meats, asparagus, and anchovies). A vegetarian diet helps prevent gout attacks by creating an alkaline environment in the body.
Lin, Kuan-Chia, et al. The interaction between uric acid level and other risk factors on the development of gout among asymptomatic hyperuricemic men in a prospective study. Journal of Rheumatology, Vol. 27, June 2000, pp. 1501-05

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