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What Is Gout?

Contributed by Dr. Kathleen Cronin

Foot diagram with gout

Uric acid is a waste product in the blood. It is removed from the body when the blood is filtered through the kidneys. In people with gout, this process is messed up. The uric acid forms crystals, which are deposited in the joints. When this happens, the build-up of crystals may cause severe pain. The pain may come and go. When the pain comes, it may last for several days. This pain and swelling can happen suddenly.

What Is the Health Impact?

Gout affects about 2.1 million Americans. Gout can show up in the hand, wrist, elbow, knee, ankle, and foot, particularly the big toe. Symptoms include sudden, severe pain. There is tenderness, redness, warmth and swelling in the affected joints. Gout is strongly linked with being overweight, having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and kidney disease.

How Is It Diagnosed?
Gout is diagnosed with a physical examination and medical history. Blood may be drawn. A blood sample does not always help with diagnosis. Sometimes fluid may be removed from the affected joint and examined for crystals.

How Is It Treated?
Medication is the main treatment for gout. If your healthcare provider gives you pills, take them every day. It is important that you do not stop taking your medication. If the pills make you feel worse, talk to your healthcare provider about making a change.

What Changes Can I Make to Prevent a Gout Attack?

  • Keep your weight down
    • Ask your healthcare provider or dietician to give you advice about diets that will help
  • Cut down or avoid foods that make your Gout more painful
    • Red meats that come from cows or sheep
      This includes steak, chops, corned beef, and larger pieces of meat usually roasted in the oven
    • Organ meats such as brains, kidneys, liver and heart
    • Shellfish such as mussels and oysters
    • Peas and beans
    • Alcohol
      Especially beer and wine
  • Avoid Aspirin
    • Aspirin makes the gout attack worse by preventing removal of uric acid
  • Avoid dehydration
    • Drink more water to decrease your chance of gout attacks

Learn more:

Active Learning

Gout (Medline Plus)

Gout (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases)

Read

Gout (Medline Plus)

Gota (Medline Plus) (en EspaƱol)

Resource: The Arthritis Foundation


Updated/Reviewed: January 31, 2010