Since gout occurs up to nine times more frequently in men than in women, it has largely been considered a man's problem. Now that gout is also on the rise in women, it is gaining attention as a serious problem among both sexes. Learn what factors play a role in gout in women, and what you can do about it.
What is Gout?
Gout is a form of arthritis, caused by large uric acid deposits in the joints. Pre-menopausal women are not likely to experience gout, but the story changes as they grow older.
Postmenopausal Women and Gout
Research has found that postmenopausal women share an equal risk with men for developing gout. Why? The average women experiences menopause at age 51, and her body significantly reduces its estrogen production. Estrogen is believed to help the kidneys excrete uric acid, so its loss may cause uric acid levels to grow.
Uric acid usually takes several years to reach the levels that form crystals. By age 60, an equal amount of women and men have gout; by age 80, more women have gout than men.
Women who are postmenopausal who also:
- Are obese
- Have hypertension
- Are treated with diuretics
Suffer an increased risk of gout compared to that of men.
What Triggers Gout?
The triggers of gout are the same in both men and women. These include:
- An excessive amount of purines in the diet
- Drugs including cyclosporine, furosemide, ethambutol, aspirin, pyrazinamide, thiazides, and nicotinic acids
How Gout is Different for Women
- Women with gout usually develop polyarticular/tophaceous disease as their first symptom.
- Tophi, or crystallized urate deposits, are likelier to occur in women and their bodily location may be different in women. These look and act similar to rheumatoid nodules.
- Women usually experience more upper limb joint inflammation than men
- Women with gout typically experience more severe renal under excretion of uric acid.
Treatment of gout is the same for both men and women. These include:
- Prompt attention to the gout attack
- Preventing new gout attacks
- Lowering the levels of uric acid in the body
- Preventing or treating the complications resulting from uric acid crystal build up
- Preventing or treating conditions that exacerbate gout, like obesity and hypertension.
Currently, pharmaceutical drugs are the most commonly used treatment for gout. However prevention will go a long way to decreasing your risks, so if you are pre-menopausal, now is a great time to start a healthy diet and exercise plan.
An early diagnosis and aggressive treatment are necessary to keep the disease in check. If you are experiencing the painful symptoms of gout, try natural supplements that have been proven to maintain healthy levels of uric acid in the blood.