In the past, cases of gout running in families, perhaps like yours, were presented on more of an anecdotal basis. But it was only when research was done in Taiwan, where one out of every 16 individuals has gout – an average higher than that of surrounding countries – that the evidence of genetic predisposition for gout became clearer.1 And the findings of that 2013 study are surprising.2 For example:
- Individuals who have a first-degree relation (such as a parent or sibling) with gout are on average three times more likely to develop gout themselves
- Individuals with an affected parent are nearly twice as likely to develop gout
- Individuals with an affected twin are eight times more likely to develop gout
While this news can be looked at as unsettling, even discouraging, it’s important to remember another key point addressed in this and so many other studies on gout: The role of lifestyle choices. After all, you may already understand that obesity and the consumption of high-purine foods and sugary/alcoholic beverages play a critical role in the development of gout.
The argument can be made, then, that while a genetic predisposition exists, shared lifestyle choices developed over the course of close relationships, shared living quarters, etc. also influence whether gout spreads through a family like yours.
It’s this understanding that can lead to empowerment and, ultimately, management of the disease. Unlike many genetically transmitted diseases where you may have little control over the disease development, with gout, dietary and lifestyle choices play a strong enough role in the flare up of symptoms that you can make choices that may mitigate them. So that even if you are aware of a family history of the disease, knowledge of the steps you need to take in order to keep yourself healthy (such as weight loss and dietary changes) can help you make your choices and increase your chances of avoiding development of gout or future flares.
When asking is gout hereditary, then, the question “and how can I avoid it” should follow. Heredity is not a guarantee, after all, and making the sort of choices necessary for a healthy life regardless of whether or not gout is a potential concern is sure to help you in the fight.
2 Chang-Fu Kuo, Matthew J Grainge, Lai-Chu See, Kuang-Hui Yu, Shue-Fen Luo, Ana M Valdes, Weiya Zhang, Michael Doherty. “Familial aggregation of gout and relative genetic and environmental contributions: a nationwide population study in Taiwan.” http://ard.bmj.com/content/74/2/36. Accessed Apr 13, 2015.