Causes and Risk Factors for Gout

Gout is caused by the buildup of uric acid in the joints. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, approximately 18 percent of people who develop gout have a family history of the condition.

Diseases and conditions that increase the risk include diabetes, obesity, kidney disease, and sickle cell anemia.

Results of a study published online in October 2014 in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases showed that gout appears to increase the risk for type 2 diabetes, especially in women. In this study, which did not prove that gout causes diabetes, women with gout were 71 percent more likely than women with the condition to develop diabetes. In men with gout, the risk for diabetes was 22 percent higher.

Regularly drinking alcohol interferes with the removal of uric acid from the body and can increase the risk for developing gout. Other risk factors include the following:

  • Exposure to lead in the environment
  • High dietary intake of rich foods that contain purine (e.g., cream sauces, red meat, sardines, liver, scallops)
  • Medications that may interfere with the body's ability to remove uric acid (e.g., aspirin, diuretics, levodopa [used to treat Parkinson's disease])

Cyclosporine (e.g., Gengraf), which is a medication used to suppress the body's immune system and prevent rejection after organ transplant, also increases the risk for developing gout.

Publication Review By: John J. Swierzewski, D.P.M.

Published: 31 Dec 1999

Last Modified: 17 Sep 2015