Why Gout Isn’t Just a Man’s Problem

Why Gout Isn’t Just a Man’s Problem

June 17, 2020

No one wants to have gout. The tenderness in the big toe joint, where it typically strikes, can be intensely uncomfortable and limit mobility. On top of all that, many women who’ve just learned they have gout are often surprised and even embarrassed by the news. Isn’t gout something men get? The answer is yes, but women can have gout, too. The fact is, later in life women are just as likely to experience gout as men.

 

For Women, Gout Is Physical and Emotional

If you’re a woman, and learning you have gout has made you feel unsettled, you’re not alone. Interviews of women with gout reveal that having what they’ve always heard is a men’s complaint can be difficult to accept. You may find it causes you to struggle with the way you see yourself as a woman and affects your mood, your relationships, and your perception of your role., While it’s an adjustment, learning the facts about men, women, and gout can help.

 

Age: The Great Gout Equalizer

Among younger and middle-aged folks, gout is more common in men, but starting around menopause, that changes. By age 70, there’s little difference between the ladies and the gents. Why is that?

For men, the uric acid that causes gout begins to rise at puberty, but for women, that rise doesn’t occur until menopause. And that’s probably because prior to “the change of life,” female hormones, specifically progesterone, protect against the rise in uric acid.,

 

Gout Affects Women Differently

For women, the use of diuretics (which can result in dehydration) is a more common trigger, while diet impacts men more. So drink up, ladies! Women are also more likely to have accompanying health challenges, such as blood pressure and blood sugar control, kidney problems, and weight gain.

Women with gout often worry more about the appearance of the big toe joint than men. (It’s hard to feel cute in those open-toed shoes with a big bulging joint.) And finding comfortable shoes can be really tough, too. Finally, there are both gender and racial differences in the way gout is treated. Sad to say, as a woman, you’re less likely to receive comprehensive care — even more so if you’re also African American. This means you need to find your voice and advocate for yourself.

 

Lifestyle Tips for Women With Gout

In addition to whatever steps your doctor recommends, here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic to help manage gout.

  • Stay hydrated. This is especially important for women, for whom dehydration is a common trigger. Drink plenty of water and avoid beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, which may make discomfort worse.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol, meat, fish, and poultry. Gout is part heredity and part environmental triggers. Pay attention to which foods are triggers for you and alter your diet accordingly. More and more women are going plant-based these days. Try it and see how you feel.
  • Add low-fat dairy. Low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt are good sources of protein that don’t aggravate gout and may even protect against flare-ups. Bonus, you’ll get more calcium this way, which most women’s diets are short in.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. There’s evidence weight matters more for women than men when it comes to gout. Losing weight may improve your uric acid levels. Go slow and steady, though, as fasting or rapid weight loss can increase uric acid.

References:

1 Fields TR, Batterman A. How can we improve disease education in people with gout? Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2018;20(3):12.

2 Singh J. The impact of gout on patient’s lives: a study of African-American and Caucasian men and women with gout. Arthritis Res Ther. 2014;16(3):R132.

3 Dalberth N, Merriman TR, Stamp LK. Gout. Lancet. 2016;388(10055):2039-52.

4 Ragab G, Elshahaly M, Bardin T. Gout: an old disease in new perspective- a review. J Adv Res. 2017;8(5):495-511.

5 Bhole V, et al. Epidemiology of gout in women: Fifty-two year followup of a prospective cohort. Arthritis Rheum. 2010. 2010;62(4):1069-76.

6 Bruderer SG, et al. Association of hormone therapy and incident gout: population-based case-control study. Menopause. 2015 Dec;22(12):1335-42.

7 Harrold LR, et al. Sex differences in gout characteristics: tailoring care for women and men. BMC Muscoskelet Disord. 2017;18:108.

8 Singh J, 2014.

9 Singh JA. Racial and gender disparities among patients with gout. Curr Rheumatol Res Rep. 2013 Feb;15(2):307.

10 Gout. The Mayo Clinic. 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gout/symptoms-causes/syc-20372897