Gout was a hot topic in late 2010 at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting in Atlanta. Researchers from around the world shared their latest findings on this type of arthritis that occurs when uric acid builds up in the body and crystallizes in the joints, causing intense pain, inflammation, stiffness and swelling.

One finding, written about in the March-April 2011 issue of Arthritis Today, is that sugary beverages including orange juice can greatly increase a woman’s risk of getting gout.

Here’s what else researchers at the conference had to say about the disease.

Gout’s On the Rise

The number of people with gout more than doubled between the 1960s and 1990s, but Yanyan Zhu, PhD, a research assistant professor at the Boston University School of Medicine, wanted to find out what’s happened since then. So Zhu compared a survey of more than 18,000 people taken between 198 to 1994 with a survey of about 5,700 people gathered between 2007 to 2008.

By the latter time period, 8.3 million Americans – or 4 percent of U.S. adults – had gout. This was up from 2.7 percent between 1988 to 1994. “These findings indicate that the prevalence of gout continues to be substantial in the new millennium,” Zhu says.

Hyperuricemia is a condition that’s often the precursor to gout because it’s marked by higher than normal levels of uric acid in the blood. Between the two time periods, instances of hyperuricemia increased by 3.2 percent. Researchers think risk factors like obesity and high blood pressure helped drive the increase.

“Better management of these factors could help prevent further rise in the disease burden of gout and hyperuricemia and other associated complications in the U.S.” Zhu says.

Uric Acid Linked With Hypertension

While Zhu suggested that high blood pressure may be a cause of hyperuricemia and gout, another study presented at the conference suggested that high uric acid may put you at risk of developing high blood pressure.