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Gout is Hereditary Among Taiwanese, Study Suggests

Dec 02, 2013 04:25 PM EST
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Gout
The oldest recorded disease in medical history, gout, has long thought been thought to be a result of an overindulgent lifestyle; excessive drinking and meat consumption leads to deposits of uric acid in the joints, causing debilitating pain. But new research done in Taiwan, where gout is most prevalent in the world, adds to the body of evidence that while gout may be a self-inflicted “rich man's disease,” it is also very hereditary.
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons:Gout, a 1799 caricature by James Gillray)

The oldest recorded disease in medical history, gout, has long thought been thought to be a result of an overindulgent lifestyle; excessive drinking and meat consumption leads to deposits of uric acid in the joints, causing debilitating pain. But new research done in Taiwan, where gout is most prevalent in the world, adds to the body of evidence that while gout may be a self-inflicted "rich man's disease," it is also very hereditary.

Previous research indicates that nearly 4 percent of the 23 million people in Taiwan have gout. For the latest study, The University of Nottingham examined data from 4.2 million families and found compelling evidence that the disease clusters in families, with an increased risk of gout in individuals who have immediate or secondary family members that also suffer from gout.

Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis that is characterized by the sudden onset of acute and often debilitating pain, along with redness and swelling in peripheral joints, typically in the feet. High uric acid levels in the blood lead to the deposit of monosodium uric acid crystals in the joints. A gout attack is characterized by the resulting inflammatory arthritis, which often leads to loss of joint functionality and searing pain.

Dr. Chang Fu Kuo, lead research for the study, said that the latest research confirms the belief that gout is hereditary.

"In Taiwan the risk of an individual with any first-degree relative suffering from gout is approximately twice that of the normal population," Dr. Chang said.

"The risk increases with the number of the first-degree relatives affected. Having a twin brother with gout carries an eight-fold risk, whereas having a parent or offspring with gout has a two-fold risk. The study also demonstrates that in addition to the genetic risk, shared environment factors play a substantial role in the aetiology of gout. The influences of environmental and genetic factors on the risk of gout are different in men and women. Genetic factors contribute one-third in men and one-fifth in women."

Michael Doherty, of Nottingham's Division of Rheumatology, Orthopaedics and Dermatology, added:

"We found evidence for both shared environmental factors and genetic factors in predisposing to gout within families, with environmental factors contributing a higher proportional risk. Both genetic and environmental factors play a role in gout pathogenesis. Having an affected family member increases the risk but part of the risk comes from modifiable shared environmental factors such as diet and lifestyle."

The researchers published their work in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

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