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Study shows gout linked to the risk of multiple diseases

A study shows that gout not only increases the risk of a broad range of cardiovascular diseases but also leads to a higher prevalence of other health conditions, including chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure and an increased body mass index (BMI).

Researchers from the Universities of Oxford, Glasgow, and KU Leuven in Belgium found that having gout is linked with a 58% higher risk of cardiovascular disease. This risk increased further for females and people under the age of 45.

Gout has previously been linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but this study, published in The Lancet Rheumatology, is the first to link gout with a broader range of health issues.

The condition can be extremely painful and is caused by a build-up of uric acid in the body, which crystallises around joints, causing pain, swelling and redness. Gout is one of the most common types of inflammatory arthritis in the world and is particularly common in older men.

Using the Clinical Practice Datalink, the researchers were able to analyse the electronic health records of over 860,000 people from the UK and Europe. Over 152,000 individuals who had gout were identified, alongside more than 700,000 matched population controls.

People with gout were found to be at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those without the condition. In particular, women with gout had an 88% higher relative risk of heart disease. For men, the risk was 49% higher for those with gout when compared to the control group.

The increased risk was seen across all of the twelve heart conditions analysed in the study, including heart failure, ischaemic heart disease, arrhythmias, valve diseases, and venous thromboembolism and was amplified in younger patients.

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People under 45 years of age who had gout were found to have more than twice the risk of cardiovascular disease than a similar-aged person without gout.

BMIs were also found to be higher in patients with gout, and higher rates of other health conditions, such as chronic kidney disease and high blood pressure, were also observed.

Dr Nathalie Conrad, a senior author on the paper from KU Leuven and an honorary research fellow at the University of Oxford and the University of Glasgow, said: ‘The present results complement a now large body of evidence of substantial cardiovascular risks associated with gout, as well as other immune-mediated inflammatory conditions.

‘To date, these conditions are less commonly considered in cardiovascular disease prevention guidelines and risk scores, nor are there specific prevention measures for these patients.

‘These data suggest this might need to change, and the clinical community may need to consider cardiovascular disease screening and prevention as an integral part of the management of gout.’

The researchers highlight the importance of screening for and managing a range of cardiovascular diseases in people with gout.

Dr Lyn Ferguson, from the University of Glasgow, added: ‘Gout could be considered a metabolic condition, and management should include addressing the heart and body weight alongside joints.’

A version of this article was originally published by our sister publication Nursing in Practice.

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