Are there deaths from gout?

A new study found that people with gout have a 25 percent greater likelihood of dying prematurely than people without gout. The findings also show that this increased mortality rate has not improved over the past 16 years, unlike the mortality rate for people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Gout, which affects more than 4 percent of adults in the United States, is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis. It develops in some people who have high levels of uric acid in the blood. The acid can form needle-like crystals in a joint and cause sudden, severe episodes of pain, tenderness, redness, warmth and swelling. Gout is also associated with other illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.

The study, published online recently in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, looked at data available in The Health Improvement Network (THIN) – an electronic medical record database in the United Kingdom that includes information on more than 10 million people.

The researchers identified more than 103,000 people with gout from the database. Each person with gout was matched – based on age, sex and what calendar year they were entered into the database – with up to five people without gout (for a total of nearly 515,000 matched controls). The researchers then divided the participants into two groups based on the gout patients’ year of diagnosis, forming an early group (1999–2006) and a late group (2007–2014). They then looked at how many people in each group died every year.

After taking into account age, sex, body mass index, cigarette use, alcohol consumption, medication use, and additional illnesses, the researchers found that people with gout had higher mortality rates compared to those without gout in both the early and late groups. All other things being equal, for every person without gout who died of any cause, 1.25 people with gout died in the early group. In the late group, that number was 1.24. Mortality rates were nearly equal in the two groups, indicating that the mortality gap did not improve over time.