Women's Risk of Gout Increases After Menopause

Patient Expert

Have you heard of gout? I had, but had no idea what it was or who is more likely to get it. However, it turns out that women's risk of getting this condition increase as they go through menopause. Therefore, I thought it would be good to learn more and share it with you.

First of all, what is gout?   According to the U.S. National Library's of Medicine's PubMed Health, gout is a form of arthritis that happens when uric acid builds up in the blood and causes joint inflammation. There are two types of gout. Acute gout causes pain in one joint whereas chronic gout involves repeated episodes of pain and inflammation in one or more joints.

In gout, uric acid crystals form when too much uric acid builds up in the fluid located around the joints.   Uric acid is produced by the body when it breaks down certain substances called purines that are naturally found in the body as well as in certain foods. These uric acid crystals, which are sharp and needle-like, result in inflammation and swelling around the joint as well as pain. Chronic gout will involve joint damage and loss of motion in the joints, as well as joint pain and other symptoms for a greater period of time.

Are menopausal women the only ones at risk for gout? The Mayo Clinic notes that while gout can affect anyone, it actually strikes men more often. PubMed Health also states that this condition may run in families and also is more common in people who drink alcohol. This condition also tends to develop in people who have kidney disease, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, other types of anemia, leukemia, other blood cancers, as well as those who are obese.

So what are the symptoms? PubMed Health reports the following:

  • This condition, which usually involves only one or a few joints, most often affects the big toe, knee or ankle joint. Health.com also notes that hands also be affected by gout.
  • Sudden pain, often starting during the night,   that is throbbing, crushing or excruciating.
  • The joint seems to be warm, red and tender. People with gout say they have pain in laying a sheet or blanket over the afflicted joint.
  • A fever.
  • The attack may stop in a few days, but may return from time to time. Furthermore, future attacks may last longer.

However, PubMed Health notes that some people will not have any symptoms after they experience their first attack of gout.

In addition, people with gout may develop lumps below the skin around joints or in other places that are called tophi. These lumps, which may drain chalky material, usually develop only when a person has had gout for many years.

Is there a way to protect yourself from gout? Health.com suggests a diet that includes low-fat dairy foods, complex carbohydrates, coffee and fruits (especially citrus) as well as 12-16 cups of fluids such as non-sweetened juice, tea and coffee daily can serve as a protector. In addition, the Mayo Clinic recommends limiting or avoiding alcohol, getting protein from low-fat dairy products and maintaining a desirable body weight.

So how can you control gout if you have it? The Mayo clinic notes that medications are the most proven way to treat this condition. Additionally, they point to four steps suggested by the American Dietetic Association:

  • Drink 8-16 cups of fluid daily, with 50 percent of your intake being water.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Eat moderate amounts of protein from healthy sources, such as low-fat or fat-free dairy, tofu, eggs and nut butters.
  • Limit intake of meat, fish and poultry to 4-6 ounces.

In addition, Health.com recommends avoiding some other specific food. These are:

  • Beer, because it increases the level of uric acids and also makes it more difficult to clear the acid from your system.
  • Scallops, which are rich in purine.
  • Herring, tuna and anchovies should be avoided; however, shrimp, lobster, eel and crab were described as relatively safe to eat.
  • Red meat. Health.com notes beef or pork are better choices if you are going to eat meat.
  • Turkey and goose, which are higher in purines. Chicken and duck are the safest choices as far as poultry. In addition, leg meat is the better option than a chicken breast that has skin for people who have gout.
  • Sugary drinks that are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup actually stimulate the body to produce more uric acid.
  • Asparagus, cauliflower, spinach and mushrooms are higher in purines, but are less so than meats. Interestingly, diets that are rich in vegetables actually help to clear purines from the body.
  • Liver, kidneys and sweetbreads.

Additionally, a study published in Arthritis and Rheumatism suggests that people who have gout who ate cherries over a two-day period had a 35-percent lower risk of a gout attack than people who did not consume this fruit. The study also found that the risk of gout attacks was 75 percent when people ate cherries and also took a uric-acid reducing drug.

Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

American College of Rheumatology. (nd).   Eating cherries lowers risk of gout attacks by 35%. Press release.

Harding, A. (nd). 8 gout-causing foods. Health.com.

Mayo Clinic. (2011). Gout.

PubMed Health. (2011). Gout. U.S. National Library of Medicine.