Gout is often treated as an afterthought in the medical system. Rather than a stand-alone disease, it is considered a consequence of one or more coexisting diseases.
Doctors therefore tend to focus on the primary disease rather than gout, leaving gout mistreated at best.
But a new study from the University of Gothenburg, Lund University, and the University of Auckland reveals that gout is much more serious than previously thought—and this changes everything about diagnosing and treating it.
The researchers consulted a Swedish population-based health survey to find people with gout and to investigate what co-occurring conditions they had. They were specifically interested in obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other fats, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney dysfunction, pulmonary dysfunction, smoking, and the use of diuretics.
With all of this health data at hand, they could divide their gout subjects into five distinct clusters.
1. Cluster 1 had no serious comorbidities. There were 16,063 people in this cluster.
2. All of the subjects in cluster 2 had kidney dysfunction but none had cardiovascular disease. There were 750 people in this cluster.
3. All of the subjects in cluster 3 had cardiovascular disease and 74% of them were smokers. There were 528 people in this cluster.
4. Cluster 4 had the highest percentage of obese people (34%) and 74% of them had high cholesterol or other fats in their blood. There were 3,673 people in this cluster.
5. In cluster 5, 51% had diabetes, 54% had high blood pressure, and 52% used diuretics. There were 1,043 people in this cluster.
So, what can we learn from this?
1. 73% of people with gout have either no comorbidities or few that are serious.
2. 17% of people with gout have a problem with obesity, cholesterol, or high blood fats.
This does not mean that the people with no or few comorbidities would not have developed comorbidities later, of course. But it does at least serve as a warning to basically healthy people that they should not discount gout as something that cannot happen to them.
This shows that gout is usually a stand-alone independent disease that needs to be addressed on its own.