Because uric acid’s role in gout is well understood and medications to ease attacks and reduce the risk or severity of future attacks are widely available, gout is one of the most—if not the most—controllable forms of arthritis. But researchers continue to make advances that help people live with gout. Perhaps someday these advances will prevent this extremely painful disease.
Here are some areas of gout research.
- Refining current treatments. Although many medications are available to treat gout, doctors are trying to determine which of the treatments are most effective and at which dosages. Recent studies have compared the effectiveness of different NSAIDs in treating the pain and inflammation of gout and have looked at the optimal dosages of other treatments to control and/or prevent painful attacks.
- Evaluating new therapies. A number of new therapies have shown promise in recent studies including biologic agents that block a chemical called tumor necrosis factor. This chemical is believed to play a role in the inflammation of gout.
- Discovering the role of foods. Gout is the one form of arthritis for which there is proof that specific foods worsen the symptoms. Now, research is suggesting that certain foods may also prevent gout. In one study scientists found that a high intake of low-fat dairy products reduces the risk of gout in men by half. The reason for this protective effect is not yet known. Another study examining the effects of vitamin C on uric acid suggests that it may be beneficial in the prevention and management of gout and other diseases that are associated with uric acid production.
- Searching for new treatment approaches. Scientists are also studying the contributions of different types of cells that participate in both the acute and chronic joint manifestations of gout. The specific goals of this research are to better understand how urate crystals activate white blood cells called neutrophils, leading to acute gout attacks; how urate crystals affect the immune system, leading to chronic gout; and how urate crystals interact with bone cells in a way that causes debilitating bone lesions among people with chronic gout. The hope is that a better understanding of the various inflammatory reactions that occur in gout will provide innovative clues for treatment.
- Examining how genetics and environmental factors can affect hyperuricemia. Researchers are studying different populations in which gout is prevalent to determine how certain genes and environmental factors may affect blood levels of uric acid, which can leak out and crystallize in the joint, leading to gout.