You’re more likely to develop gout if you have high levels of uric acid in your body.
Factors that increase the uric acid level in your body include:
- Diet. Eating a diet that’s high in meat and seafood and high in beverages sweetened with fruit sugar (fructose) promotes higher levels of uric acid, which increases your risk of gout.
Alcohol consumption, especially of beer, also increases the risk of gout.
- Obesity. If you are overweight, your body produces more uric acid and your kidneys have a more difficult time eliminating uric acid, which greatly increases your risk of gout.
- Medical conditions. Certain diseases and conditions make it more likely that you’ll develop gout. These include untreated high blood pressure and chronic conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart and kidney diseases.
- Certain medications. The use of thiazide diuretics — commonly used to treat hypertension — and low-dose aspirin also can increase uric acid levels. So can the use of anti-rejection drugs prescribed for people who have undergone an organ transplant.
- Family history of gout. If other members of your family have had gout, you’re more likely to develop the disease.
- Age and sex. Gout occurs more often in men, primarily because women tend to have lower uric acid levels. After menopause, however, women’s uric acid levels approach those of men. Men also are more likely to develop gout earlier — usually between the ages of 30 and 50 — whereas women generally develop signs and symptoms after menopause.
- Recent surgery or trauma. Experiencing recent surgery or trauma has been associated with an increased risk of developing gout.
People with gout can develop more-severe conditions, such as:
Some people may never experience gout signs and symptoms again. But others may experience gout several times each year. Medications may help prevent gout attacks in people with recurrent gout. If left untreated, gout can cause erosion and destruction of a joint.
Untreated gout may cause deposits of urate crystals to form under the skin in nodules called tophi (TOE-fie). Tophi can develop in several areas such as your fingers, hands, feet, elbows or Achilles tendons along the backs of your ankles. Tophi usually aren’t painful, but they can become swollen and tender during gout attacks.
Urate crystals may collect in the urinary tract of people with gout, causing kidney stones. Medications can help reduce the risk of kidney stones.