People who have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are more likely to develop gout, even a year or more after their initial OSA diagnosis, according to a recent report from researchers at Keele University in Great Britain. It’s already been established that sleep apnea, which is a condition in which people periodically stop breathing during sleep, predisposes patients to gout during the first year after the OSA diagnosis. In the new study, published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology, the researchers wanted to find out if this predisposition endures even after that first year.
The researchers studied data on nearly 80,000 patients. About 16,000 had sleep apnea; the rest didn’t. They followed up the patients for approximately six years and discovered that those with OSA were nearly twice as likely to develop gout during the follow-up period as those without apnea. Although the risk of gout was higher throughout the follow-up period, the risk was highest one to two years after diagnosis. The researchers also compared patients with normal body-mass index to those who were overweight or obese. Somewhat surprisingly, they found the risk of gout to be higher in OSA patients of normal weight. According to head researcher Edward Roddy, DM, “People with sleep apnea are at increased risk of gout in both the short and long term…. Doctors and other health professionals should consider the possibility of gout in patients with sleep apnea, regardless of body-mass index.”
As for causation, the researchers speculated that intermittent oxygen deficiency may lead to overproduction of uric acid. Also, because sleep apnea can be treated with continuous positive airways pressure, or CPAP, they wondered if CPAP treatment might prove helpful for gout patients.