Heat, Humidity, And Gout

An Oxymoron

Summer can be a great time to get in lots of relaxation and sun worship, but for those with gout, summer fun can be an oxymoron. A new study has found a link between summer weather and recurrent attacks of gout.

Gout results when too much uric acid builds up in the body. In most cases, the kidneys can filter out excess uric acid from the bloodstream, but people with gout don't have this ability. This buildup of uric acid leads to crystallization of the fluid that resides within various joints of the body, leading to the swelling and severe pain of gout attacks.

Gout attacks often occur in the middle of the night and tend to hit the joint at the base of the big toe. The American College of Rheumatology states that 1 in 100 people are affected by gout with the majority being male and white. The lead author for this study, Yuging Zhang, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Boston University, comments that, "Even though we have treatments a lot of patients with gout have recurrent attacks, which are very painful."

Zhang and colleagues from the Boston University Medical Center have discovered that high heat and humidity can cause recurrent gout attacks. While the study is ongoing, thus far, 197 participants have completed the questionnaire. The researchers looked at metrological reports for the geographical areas where participants lived and examined the heat and humidity levels for the times the attacks occurred. It was found that the risk factor for recurrent attacks rose as the humidity and heat levels intensified.

Drink Extra Fluids

While the study did not go so far as to examine the mechanism of how heat and humidity cause recurrent gout attacks, the researchers believe the connection may involve dehydration. Zhang suggests that people with gout would do well to drink extra fluids during hot and damp weather. "A possible biological explanation is that during hot and humid weather [people with gout] dehydrated or at least did not get enough water so their uric acid [levels] increased," says Zhang, "Drinking water is always good, not only for gout but for other diseases as well."

Zhang and his team looked at other factors besides heat and high humidity as triggers for recurrent gout attacks, for instance alcohol consumption, various medications, and injury to the joints. Doctors often advise gout patients to avoid consuming alcoholic beverages.