Rheumatoid arthritis patients face higher gout risk today than in the past, according to research. Gout is a type of arthritis characterized by crystals forming in small joints as a result of excess uric acid in the bloodstream, whereas rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. It has long been believed that rheumatoid arthritis patients were at a higher risk for gout – along with other health conditions.
Previously, rheumatoid arthritis patients were believed to be immune to gout because rheumatoid arthritis treatment used to involve high dosages of aspirin, which would help the kidneys flush out excess uric acid. Today, aspirin is not used for rheumatoid arthritis treatment anymore. This, combined with the spreading obesity epidemic, is putting rheumatoid arthritis patients at a higher risk for gout.
Lead author Eric Matteson said, “It is probably true that flares of rheumatoid arthritis in some cases might have actually been flares of gout, and that the gout wasn’t diagnosed. It wasn’t realized that it was a coexistent problem. Awareness that gout does exist in patients with rheumatoid arthritis hopefully will lead to better management of gout in those patients.”
The researchers studied 813 patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis between 1980 and 2007. Twenty-two patients developed gout over the course of the study and this was more common in rheumatoid arthritis patients who were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis from 1995 onward. Risk factors for gout in rheumatoid arthritis remained the same as the general population: being male, obese, and of older age.
Rheumatoid arthritis and gout coexistence is completely possible, mainly because of their differences in causes. Gout is caused by high uric acid levels, primarily due to dietary factors. Therefore, if you have rheumatoid arthritis – an autoimmune disease – and eat a high-uric acid diet, that can cause the formation of gout in presence of rheumatoid arthritis.
Furthermore, the same diet that can contribute to gout development can also lead to obesity, adding excess weight onto the joints that are already feeling the pain from rheumatoid arthritis. This added stress can worsen rheumatoid arthritis symptoms along with gout symptoms. Overall, it’s important to eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight if you are living with either one of the conditions.
Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis includes the use of a variety of medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve pain and reduce inflammation, steroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs to help slow down disease progression, and biologic agents that target the immune system as it triggers the inflammation.
Physical therapy and surgery may also be viable treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis in order to increase the range of motion or to replace severely damaged joints.
Gout can also be treated with medications, including NSAIDs and other pain relievers. Some medications can be prescribed to prevent gout complications, including medications to block uric acid and medications to improve uric acid removal.
Lifestyle and home remedies can also be utilized to better manage gout. This includes limiting alcoholic and sugary beverages, reducing your intake of high purine foods (like red meat, organ meat, and seafood), exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis and gout together, you may need to combine treatment options for better managing both conditions. Speak to your doctor about your treatment options for both RA and gout.