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A link between gout and dementia

Created date

August 14th, 2018
This is an example of the way inflammation can affect the joint between the big toe and the rest of the foot

This is an example of the way inflammation can affect the joint between the big toe and the rest of the foot

Gout is a common inflammatory condition in which uric acid, a waste product in your blood, forms crystals that accumulate in your joints. 

When a bout of gout comes on (called a flare), it’s characterized by a sudden onset of symptoms including severe pain, heat, swelling, and redness in a joint—a very common site is the big toe where it meets the rest of your foot. The pain can be so excruciating that putting on a sock may seem to be an impossible task.

Gout has been associated with a higher risk of other inflammatory conditions and disability. In addition, previous research has yielded conflicting results about a link between gout and the brain. In fact, some studies seem to show that uric acid has a protective effect on the brain. Other studies suggest uric acid is harmful to brain health.

Lowering levels

Current recommendations from the medical community call for lowering uric acid levels to help reduce gout flares. A recent study presented at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology by researchers from the University of Alabama may support this recommendation. In this study, the scientists found that having gout may put you at a 17% to 20% increased risk of dementia.

The researchers examined data from over 1.2 million Medicare beneficiaries. After adjusting for variables such as demographics, medical conditions, and medications, they found that gout was independently associated with a significant increase in risk of dementia.

This study adds to the knowledge base about this disease, but the researchers say more study is needed to understand why gout and dementia are associated, and whether this process can be prevented.

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