Gout patients who have a flare-up of symptoms are significantly more likely to go on to suffer a heart attack or a stroke, a study suggests.
Patients with gout who have a flare-up were found to have higher odds of suffering a “cardiovascular event” in the four months afterwards.
Gout is a type of arthritis where small crystals form inside and around the joints.
It causes sudden attacks of severe pain and swelling.
One to two people in every 100 in the UK are affected, with the condition more common in men over 30 and women after the menopause.
The condition has been linked to heart and circulatory diseases but the association between gout and “cardiovascular events” has not previously been studied.
The study, published in the journal JAMA, examined electronic health records of more than 62,000 patients with gout in England.
Researchers, including scientists from the University of Nottingham and Keele University, looked at information on gout flare-ups and cardiovascular events including heart attack and stroke to ascertain whether there was a link between the two.
Among this group, 10,475 patients went on to have a cardiovascular event.
Patients who suffered from a heart attack or stroke were almost twice as likely to have had a gout flare in the 60 days prior and one-and-a-half times more likely to have had a gout flare in the 61-120 days before the heart attack or stroke.
“This is the first study of its kind to examine whether there is an association between recent gout flares and heart attacks and strokes,” said Professor Abhishek Abhishek, from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham and lead author on the study.
People with gout should be encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle with appropriate treatment of conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes to minimise their background risk of heart attack and stroke— Professor Abhishek Abhishek, University of Nottingham
“The results show that among patients with gout, patients who experienced a heart attack or stroke had significantly increased odds of a gout flare during the preceding 120 days compared with patients who did not experience such events. These findings suggest that gout flares are associated with a transient increase in cardiovascular events following flares.
“People with recurrent gout flares should be considered for long-term treatment with urate-lowering treatments such as allopurinol, this is a reliable way of removing urate crystal deposits and providing freedom from gout flares.
“Patients should also be considered for concurrent treatment with anti-inflammatory medicines such as colchicine for the first few months because urate-lowering treatments may trigger gout flares in the short term.
“People with gout should be encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle with appropriate treatment of conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes to minimise their background risk of heart attack and stroke.”