Female Gout Factors

Boston University School of Medicine researchers have discovered that women who have serum uric acid levels above 5 mg/dl have a very low risk for developing gout when compared to men. This is the first study to look at the link between uric acid levels in women and their risk for gout. The study also examined other potential risks for gout in women including aging, hypertension, obesity, alcohol consumption, and the use of diuretics.

This study was a follow-up of an older study that was begun 52 years ago and a report of the results has been published in the April 2010 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism, the journal for the American College of Rheumatology.

Male Disease

Gout has earned a label as a male disease, even though there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that older women are also at risk for the disease.  The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES-III) shows that 3.5% of women aged 60-69 years old, 4.6% of those in the 70-79 year age group, and 5.6% of those aged 80 and older develop gout. In addition, the Rochester Epidemiology project discovered that the incidence of gout in women has doubled over the past two decades.

Lead author of the current study, Hyon Choi, MD, Ph.D, evaluated data generated by the Framingham Heart Study on 2,476 women and 1,952 men free of gout at the beginning of the study. The average age of the women participants was 47 years and 46 years for the men. The study team analyzed serum uric acid levels as well as risk factors for gout including body mass index (BMI), age, menopause status, hypertension, alcohol use, cholesterol levels, blood glucose, and medications such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and diuretics. The baseline blood uric acid levels in the men averaged 5.1 mg/dl while for women the levels were at 4.0 mg/dl.

"We identified 104 gout cases in women and 200 in men over the 28-year median follow-up period," said Dr. Choi. "The gout incidence per 1,000 person-years was 1.4 in women and 4.0 in men."

Purported Risks

The research team also looked at the various risk factors that are supposed to predispose women (as opposed to men) to developing gout. These purported risk factors include obesity, aging, hypertension, diuretic use, and alcohol consumption. The results of the study showed that of all these risk factors, only increasing age could be proven as a female-only risk factor for developing gout.