Gout and Diabetes: the link

Often times people find themselves with diabetes and gout at the same time. One gets to wonder if there is a link between the two diseases. Does one cause the other? What do both conditions have in common? Or are they simply two conditions that happen to be found commonly in the same people? In this post we discuss the link between gout and diabetes.

 

Defining Gout

Gout is a form of inflammatory type of arthritis. It is a result of persistently elevated levels of uric acid in the blood. Gout is a very painful disease and commonly targets the joint of the big toe. Other joints in the foot, fingers or ankle can however be affected as well. It causes a sudden onset of severe joint pain. The joint is often swollen, hot to touch, red and stiff. It most commonly affects men and women after menopause.

What causes gout?

Gout happens when there is a buildup of too much uric acid in the body. This condition is called hyperuricemia. The uric acid in the body is formed from the breakdown of substances called purines which are found in your body tissues and certain foods that you eat.

Under normal circumstances, uric acid dissolves in your blood and gets removed out of the body by the kidneys when you go to the loo. When there is too much uric acid in the body and your kidneys are not able to remove it, it can build up in the body tissues and form crystals. When this happens in the joints, it is very painful and causes swelling.

However, it is important to note that high uric acid in the blood does not equate to gout. Again, high uric acid in the absence of symptoms does not need to be treated.

How does gout presents?

The symptoms of gout are as a result of the formation of uric acid crystals in the joint. When these crystals form, the body starts an immune response against these crystals. Symptoms then develop as a result of this response. The symptoms are usually sudden and often wakes you up from sleep. Symptoms include:

Joint pain

Gout commonly affects the joint of the big toe but does affect other joints. The pain is intense and happens suddenly.

Inflammation

The joint is often swollen, red and warm to touch.

Joint stiffness

As gout progresses overtime, the joint become stiff with decreased range of movement.

The attacks come in flares (starting suddenly and lastly for days to weeks), followed by a period of remission (no symptoms) lasting for weeks to months. Repeated attacks can lead to gouty arthritis.

Gout and diabetes-the link

The connection between gout and diabetes is not very clear. However, several studies have shown that people with gout have increased risk of developing diabetes. People with type-2 diabetes are more likely to have high blood uric acid (hyperuricemia) and people with high uric acid are more likely to get diabetes. This relationship between the two diseases is much more common in women.

Again, there are risk factors that play an important role in both conditions. They include

Being overweight or obesity

Obesity or being overweight puts you at a higher risk of having diabetes than the normal population. You are more likely to get gout if you are overweight or obese. This is because extra weight disturbs the kidney’s ability to remove uric acid from the body.

Family history

Both conditions are commoner if you have a positive family history.

Age

You are at risk of both diabetes and gout if you are 45 and above

Alcohol abuse

The body treats alcohol as a toxin and prioritizes removing it over removing uric acid or controlling your blood sugar levels. This is why excessive intake of alcohol is associated with gout attacks and uncontrolled blood sugar levels. Alcohol abuse is also strongly linked with insulin resistance which may lead to type-2 diabetes.

Other health problems

Conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol are often found in people with both gout and diabetes. Both the conditions are also often linked to kidney and heart diseases.

Isolated risk factors for gout

Even if you do not have the risk factors mentioned above, there are other factors that may increase your uric acid. These include

  • Being male
  • A diet that is high in purines. Examples of these include, red meat, sardines, tuna, liver, kidneys, beans, lentils, wheat bran etc.
  • Using certain medication e.g. diuretics.

Diagnosing gout

Gout can at times be hard to diagnose. There are other forms of arthritis that may present with symptoms that are similar to that of gout. Therefore, the best form of diagnosis is to check for the presence of uric acid crystals in the affected joint by injecting a needle into the joint. Blood tests and ultrasound scan may also be used to diagnose gout.

Managing gout and diabetes

The aim of management is to keep your uric acid levels and you blood sugar levels control. Lifestyle changes can lower your uric acid levels and control your blood sugar levels.

Change your eating habits

Diet plays a very important role in both conditions. To manage your diabetes, you need to avoid foods that are high in calories and go for those that a high in fiber. To manage gout, you need to cut down foods that are high in purines. Remember to consult your doctor or dietitian before you make any dietary changes.

Limit your alcohol intake

Limiting your alcohol intake will help reduce your incidences of gout attacks. Moderate drinking is also very beneficial to you blood sugar control.

Exercise

Regular exercise does not only help you regulate your blood sugar levels, it also helps you lose weight. Weight loss helps your body regulate you uric acid better. However, fasting and rapid weight may temporarily increase your uric acid levels. At least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days in a week is enough.

Drink lots of water

Keeping your body hydrated is actually good for your diabetes as keeps your blood sugar levels stable. Water also helps your body to get rid of the uric acid hence keeping the levels in the body low. At least 8 glasses of water per day will do. Limit your intake of sweetened beverages as these may affect your blood sugar levels.

Manage other conditions

As earlier mentioned, there are same conditions that often co-exist with gout and diabetes. When not managed well, these conditions may cause uncontrolled blood sugars and gout flares. They are again associated with complications of both conditions. These are heart diseases, kidney diseases, uncontrolled hypertension and high cholesterol levels.

In Conclusion

Gout and diabetes often co-exist. Managing both conditions well is not only up to your physician but you as an individual has to make the right choices for better quality for life. Making better lifestyle choices is the key to this.

I hope this post has helped you and if you have any comments or suggestions, don’t forget to leave them below in the comments section.

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