Gout: A Family Affair

Gout risk increased with the number of direct relatives who also had gout

(RxWiki News) Gout is a painful form of arthritis that affects millions of people around the world. Now researchers think you might place some of the blame on your close relatives.

These researchers looked at nearly 23 million people in Taiwan, where reported cases of gout are among the highest in the world.

Men had a greater risk of having gout if just one direct family member had it. Women, who have a lower risk overall, still had an increased gout risk when a family member had the condition.

Risk for men and women increased significantly when two or more family members had been diagnosed with gout.

"Ask your doctor how to best treat your gout symptoms."

This study was led by Dr. Chang-Fu Kuo of the Department of Rheumatology at the University of Nottingham in the UK.

The study consisted of 23 million National Health Insurance (NHI) members in Taiwan, which amounts to 99.8 percent of the total population of Taiwan. Nearly 4.2 million families were identified with at least two generations of data available.

Gout could be verified by either a physician-recorded diagnosis and a gout-related prescription at an outpatient or emergency visit between 2000 and 2004 or two such visits recorded by a physician during the same period.

Gout has long been suspected to run within families, but little research had been done to support this notion. This research was conducted to establish the risk to first- and second-degree relatives as well as the impact environment might play.

This study showed that when a direct family member (mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter) had gout, prevalence of gout among men was 13.37 percent, while among women it was 4.16 percent.

Prevalence among those with a second-degree family relative was 10.05 percent among men and 3.01 percent among women.

Risk increased when more than one first-degree relative had gout. When two relatives had gout, the risk of having gout was over 3.2 times greater, and increased to almost five times greater when three or more relatives were diagnosed with gout.

"... [B]iological relatives tend to share similar environmental and lifestyle risk factors in addition to genes; both contribute to familial aggregation," the researchers wrote.

"Therefore, we examined the risk associated with having a spouse who has gout on the assumption that any increased risk from this predominantly reflects predisposition from environmental and lifestyle factors," they wrote.

Taiwan was chosen for this study because it has one of the highest reported rates of gout. However, this limits the results to one setting and may not be applicable elsewhere. Additionally, the NHI Research Database is designed as a health insurance database that has limited information for clinical diagnosis.

Gout is the most common form of inflammatory joint disease and carries many serious short and long-term effects. This study was able to verify a long suspected link between family and gout risk.

This study was published November 21 in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

This study was sponsored by National Science Council of Taiwan and Chang Gung Memorial Hospital. Methodological assistance and infrastructure were provided by the University of Nottingham.

Review Date: 
December 2, 2013
Last Updated:
December 31, 2013