A new study finds that gout is associated with a 17 to 20 percent higher risk of dementia in the elderly.

A common condition, gout is caused by deposits of crystals of uric acid (also known as urate) in the joints, which leads to inflammation. Symptom flares can be unpredictable and debilitating, developing over a few hours and causing severe pain in the joints.

Treating gout includes lowering uric acid levels, although maintaining too low a level is a concern because uric acid is thought to protect the brain, researchers note.

“Our study found a considerable increased risk of dementia associated with gout in the elderly,” said Dr. Jasvinder Singh, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Further study is needed to explore these relationships and understand the pathogenic pathways involved in this increased risk.”

Presented at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology (EULAR 2018), the study included 1.23 million Medicare beneficiaries, of which 65,325 had dementia.

In an analysis that was adjusted for various potential confounding variables, including demographics, comorbidities, and commonly used medications, the study’s results showed that gout is independently associated with a significantly higher risk of dementia.

That association was larger in older age groups, females, African Americans and people with higher medical comorbidity, according to the researchers.

Source: European League against Rheumatism (EULAR)