According to a new study, sleep apnea increases a person’s risk of gout, a painful condition in which uric acid collects in the joint, causing damage to the bones and soft tissue.

Understanding Gout

Gout is often recognized by its symptoms: pain, redness, and swelling around a joint, often the big toe, but many other joints in the body can be affected.

Gout is caused when excess uric acid in the blood precipitates as sharp urate crystals around the joint. These crystals act like tiny shards of glass in the joint, stabbing into the body at the slightest pressure.

Illustration of gout
Uric acid is normally present in the body, and it’s supposed to be eliminated from the blood by your kidneys. However, for some people the body does not eliminate uric acid quickly enough, leading to the concentration of crystals around the joints. Gout is also linked to diet because consuming certain foods can increase uric acid levels in the blood.

Linking Gout to Sleep Apnea

Several studies have shown that people with sleep apnea tend to have higher concentrations of uric acid in their blood, but the link to gout has been harder to demonstrate. For this study, researchers looked at the healthy records of nearly 10,000 people who were newly diagnosed with sleep apnea and compared them with nearly 44,000 people without sleep apnea. They found that people with sleep apnea were about 50% more likely to develop gout than those without the sleep problem. The incidence of gout for sleep apnea remained higher in all subgroups, meaning that age, gender, body mass, and other factors didn’t seem to affect the relative gout risk in this population.

Because the study just looked at medical records to establish a correlation, it couldn’t talk about causation. However, it is possible that kidney damage related to sleep apnea could be the link. As the kidneys lose function, they are unable to remove the same level of uric acid from the blood, resulting in high concentrations that cause gout.

Sleep apnea treatment may be able to help prevent kidney damage and help you avoid increased gout risk. To learn more about the benefits of sleep apnea treatment in Omaha, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with a sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.