Obstructive sleep apnoea linked with higher risk of gout

New research led by Keele University has revealed that people with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) have a higher risk of developing gout, even beyond the first years after being diagnosed with the sleep disorder.

OSA is associated with a range of serious comorbidities, and it has previously been shown that people with OSA have a higher risk of developing gout in the first year after diagnosis. Symptoms of OSA include loud snoring, noisy and laboured breathing, and repeated short periods where breathing is interrupted by gasping or snorting.

New research led by Dr Ed Roddy and Dr Milica Blagojevic-Bucknall from Keele’s Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences, investigated whether people with OSA may also be more likely to develop gout over a longer term. The findings, published in Arthritis & Rheumatology, examined information on 15,879 patients with OSA and 63,296 without, with a median follow-up of 5.8 years. 

The follow-up found that patients with OSA were almost twice as likely to develop gout, with 4.9% of OSA and 2.6% of non-OSA patients developing gout during the follow-up.

An elevated risk of developing gout was observed throughout follow-up for OSA patients, but it was highest one to two years after diagnosis of OSA. This finding was seen in patients with normal body mass index as well as those who were overweight or obese; however, the risk was greater in those with normal weight.

Dr Roddy, Reader in Rheumatology at Keele University explains:

“People with sleep apnoea are at an increased risk of gout in both the short and long term. Since this risk was highest in people with normal body mass index, doctors and other health professionals should consider the possibility of gout in patients with sleep apnoea, regardless of body mass index.”

It’s unclear whether intermittent oxygen deficiency due to OSA leads to over-production of uric acid, which causes gout. Dr Blagojevic-Bucknall commented:

“Sleep apnea is commonly treated with continuous positive airways pressure—or CPAP—therapy. Since CPAP treatment corrects low oxygen levels it might also be expected to reduce uric acid levels, which could possibly reduce the risk of developing gout; however, further research is needed to investigate the effect of treatment with CPAP in people with gout.”