Uric acid is a natural waste product that our bodies produce when breaking down purines, substances found in certain foods and drinks. While having some uric acid is necessary for our bodies to function properly, too much of it can lead to a condition called hyperuricemia, which can cause a range of health problems. But does the impact of high uric acid levels differ between men and women? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the research on this topic and explore the gender-specific effects of hyperuricemia.
Recent research has shown that there is a gender gap in the effects of hyperuricemia on health. Women are at greater risk of developing hyperuricemia-related conditions than men, and they may experience different symptoms and outcomes.
Higher risk for women
Several studies have found that women are at greater risk of developing hyperuricemia than men. A study published in the Journal of Women’s Health found that women had a significantly higher prevalence of hyperuricemia than men and that the risk increased with age. Another study published in the Journal of Rheumatology found that women were more likely than men to develop gout, even after adjusting for known risk factors such as age, obesity, and alcohol consumption.
One reason for this gender gap may be hormonal differences. Estrogen, a hormone found in higher levels in women than in men, has been shown to increase the excretion of uric acid. During menopause, however, women’s estrogen levels decrease, which can lead to an increased risk of hyperuricemia-related conditions.
Different symptoms and outcomes
In addition to a higher risk of developing hyperuricemia-related conditions, women may also experience different symptoms and outcomes than men. A study published in the Journal of Rheumatology found that women with gout had more severe pain, more frequent attacks, and higher levels of disability than men with gout. Women were also less likely than men to receive appropriate treatment for gout, which may contribute to worse outcomes.
Another study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that women with hyperuricemia were at a higher risk of developing hypertension than men with hyperuricemia. This may be due to the fact that estrogen has a protective effect on blood vessels, and the decreased levels of estrogen during menopause may lead to a higher risk of hypertension.
Hyperuricemia may also have negative effects on reproductive health in women. A study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that women with higher levels of uric acid were more likely to have fertility problems such as ovulatory dysfunction, a condition in which the ovaries do not release eggs regularly. The study also found that women with higher uric acid levels had lower levels of a hormone called estradiol, which is important for maintaining reproductive health.
Another study published in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation found that hyperuricemia was associated with insulin resistance and higher levels of androgens, male hormones that can disrupt the menstrual cycle and cause fertility problems in women.
Prevention and treatment
Given the higher risk of hyperuricemia-related conditions in women, women need to take steps to prevent and treat the condition. Lifestyle changes such as reducing intake of purine-rich foods (such as red meat, seafood, and alcohol), losing weight, and staying hydrated can help to lower uric acid levels. Medications such as allopurinol and febuxostat can also be used to lower uric acid levels and prevent gout attacks.
However, it is important to note that medications may have different effects on men and women. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology found that women were more likely than men to experience adverse effects from allopurinol, a common medication used to treat gout. Women were also less likely than men to achieve target uric acid levels with allopurinol treatment.
Hyperuricemia is a common condition that can lead to a range of health problems, including gout, kidney stones, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. While men and women can both develop hyperuricemia, women are at greater risk and may experience different symptoms and outcomes than men. Hormonal differences may play a role in this gender gap, with women’s higher estrogen levels providing some protection until menopause.