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Rheumatoid disorders

Last Updated: 15 January 2019








Rheumatoid disorders

You may think of rheumatoid arthritis as a condition that elderly people get – and perhaps you associate gout with overweight, middle aged men. It’s a common misperception that these are rare conditions that only affect older or overweight people.


Rates of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and gout are actually on the increase in the UK and currently around 2 % and 1.4% of the population are affected by RA and gout respectively.


What is the difference between RA and gout?

RA is an autoimmune disease that causes pain and swelling of the joints. The immune system starts attacking the lining of the joints, causing inflammation and joint damage. It usually affects smaller joints, such as joints in the hands and feet but larger joints like hips, knees and neck can also be affected.

Gout is also an arthritic condition, but its cause is a build up of uric acid in the blood, rather than an immune response. When there’s too much uric acid in the bloodstream, it crystallises and these crystals become lodged in joints – causing swelling and pain.

Who’s at risk?

It’s not known what causes RA, although if you smoke or have a family history of the condition your risk is higher. It’s also been shown that being overweight increases your risk.

Gout is more common in men than women, although women’s risk increases after the menopause. If you have high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and or have too much fat in your blood you’ll be at a higher risk for gout. It’s also been shown that drinking too much alcohol increases your risk. As gout is caused by too much uric acid, foods containing high levels of purines like organ meats, fish and yeast can trigger gout.


What you can do:

If you suspect that you have RA or gout, it’s important to get it checked out straight away as there are a number of treatments that may help to reduce symptoms.

Although there is no cure for either RA or gout, they both respond well to dietary and lifestyle alterations such as reducing alcohol intake, quitting smoking and staying active. For more information on RA and gout take a look at www.arthritiscare.org.uk/Home



Written by Dr. Noel Duncan

General health
Healthy ageing
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