Stress itself doesn’t directly cause gout. But it can indirectly contribute by raising your levels of uric acid, a waste product that can make your symptoms worse.

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Gout is a type of arthritis. It happens when the uric acid crystals that are normally peed out instead build up in your joints. This can cause inflammation and pain.

You can get high levels of uric acid if you eat lots of foods high in purines (like game meat and organs), don’t drink enough water, have kidney disease, and take certain medications.

Stress is another factor that can lead to rising uric acid levels, but can it cause gout? Here’s what the research says.

While stress itself doesn’t directly cause gout, it can indirectly raise the risk by increasing your uric acid levels.

Research suggests that during stressful times, your body can increase uric acid levels as a way to manage oxidative stress. When uric acid levels remain high over time, your chances of developing gout go up.

Stress can also make you more prone to not-so-healthy lifestyle choices. Eating an unbalanced diet, not drinking enough water, and skipping your workouts can further raise your uric acid levels. Over time, these levels may contribute to uric acid crystals to form in your joints, triggering gout symptoms.

The link between gout and stress, anxiety, and depression is complicated. For example, stress can increase your chances of gout, but gout can also make you even more stressed.

In addition, research has shown that chronic inflammation from gout is linked to a higher risk of depression.

A type of secreted protein called inflammatory cytokines can also affect neurotransmitters. These are the chemical messengers that carry information across your nerve cells. This means that the inflammatory cytokines can affect the part of your brain that regulates mood, contributing to depression symptoms.

One study analyzed Medicare claims from Americans ages 65 or older to investigate the link between gout and the risk of developing new onset depression.

After adjusting for various factors — like demographics, medications, and other medical conditions — the study found that people with gout were 42% more likely to get depression than those without gout.

Another 2020 study also found that people with gout are more likely to experience depression. The findings also showed a less clear link between gout and anxiety.

If you have gout, it’s a good idea to practice stress management techniques. Try some of the following:

  • Deep breathing: Practice deep breathing exercises to help calm your mind and body. Inhale slowly through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: This involves tensing and then relaxing each muscle group in your body, starting from your toes and working up to your head.
  • Mindfulness meditation: Practice mindfulness by focusing your attention on the present moment without judgment. This can help lower stress and increase your awareness of your thoughts and feelings.
  • Yoga or tai chi: Engage in gentle physical activity like yoga or tai chi, which can help lower stress and promote relaxation through movement and breathing techniques.
  • Hobbies: Engage in activities you enjoy, such as reading, listening to music, or spending time in nature, to help you relax and unwind.
  • Healthy lifestyle: Keep up a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine intake.
  • Social support: Stay connected with friends and family for emotional support; talking with someone you trust about your feelings can help lower stress. Volunteering in your community can also be a positive way to shift your focus from yourself and help others.

While stress management techniques can potentially help your gout symptoms, they aren’t a stand-alone treatment option.

If you have gout, a doctor will probably prescribe you medications and recommend lifestyle changes. Some treatment options include:

  • Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, colchicine, and corticosteroids can help reduce pain and inflammation during a gout flare up. For long-term management, medications like allopurinol, febuxostat, and probenecid may be prescribed to lower uric acid levels and prevent future flare-ups.
  • Lifestyle changes: Making changes to your diet, such as reducing purine-rich foods (red meat, organ meats, and seafood) and alcohol, staying hydrated, and maintaining a moderate weight, can help manage gout symptoms.
  • Stress management: Stress management techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and exercise, can help lower stress levels. Counseling or therapy may also be beneficial in managing stress.
  • Joint care: Resting and elevating the affected joint, applying ice packs, and using assistive devices like canes and splints can help.
  • Stress management: Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and mindfulness can help lower stress levels. Regular exercise and adequate sleep are also important for managing stress.

Without treatment, flares usually resolve in a week or two, especially early in the disease. But treatment can speed up symptom improvement.

Gout flares are extremely painful and can disable the affected joint. They often affect a single joint, although multiple joints can be affected.

Although stress itself doesn’t directly cause gout, it can indirectly increase the risk by elevating uric acid levels, which can predispose susceptible individuals to developing gout over time.

If you suspect you have stress-related gout, try to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. They can recommend lifestyle changes, stress management techniques, and medications to help manage your symptoms.