People living with gout, especially women, may have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a large study conducted by Harvard Medical School.

Women with gout were 71 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than their counterparts who didn't have gout. Meanwhile, the increase in diabetes risk for men with gout was only 22 percent when compared to men who didn't have gout.

The study was published in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases and reported on HealthDay.com. Researchers followed more than 35,000 people in the United Kingdom who recently developed gout, and they took such things as sex, body mass index, and alcohol and tobacco usage into account when calculating the gout risk.

The average age of the female participants with gout was 67, compared to 60 for the males; however, the diabetic risk for women was higher in every age group.

The scientists followed the 35,000 participants for 15 years, comparing them to a control group of 137,000 other U.K. residents who didn't have gout.

Risk odds

According to the study's lead author, Dr. Hyon Choi of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, women have a five percent risk of developing both gout and diabetes, while men face a three percent risk.

"The current study provides the first general population evidence for an independent association between gout and the risk for type 2 diabetes," Choi wrote, according to the website Medpage Today. "And it fills the knowledge gap about the relation among women."

The study could not pinpoint why women were at increased odds for getting type 2 diabetes, but Choi said it could have something to do with the differences in how men and women metabolize uric acid.

While there's a link between the two illnesses, Choi said the study did not find prove gout causes diabetes. Both diseases are metabolic in nature and the link between the two could start in the kidneys. Further research is needed to learn more.

Contributing factors

Diet and other lifestyle choices may also contribute to the risk of getting gout and type 2 diabetes. Characterized by a buildup of the uric acid levels in the body, gout can be caused by a diet rich in purines like red meat and alcohol. Meanwhile, a person may have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they are obese or do not lead an active lifestyle. Obesity has also been linked to a greater risk of getting gout.

According to the Mayo Clinic, gout is a painful form of arthritis that affects the joints, most often the big toe. Gout flare-ups may cause sharp pain and swelling. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not create enough insulin to metabolize blood sugar or is unable to properly use the insulin it makes, Mayo explains.

Treatments

Both illnesses may be treated with medication along with proper diet and exercise. However, Choi's study could mean more tests for patients in the future. Doctors will now need to consider that a patient exhibiting symptoms of one illness may be at risk for the other.

For more on type 2 diabetes:

My Family's Got It — Type 2 Diabetes
Insulin Therapy in Early Type 2 Diabetes
Is Type 2 Diabetes an Autoimmune Disease?