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What is Gout?

Gout is a disease that affects the joints. Left untreated, it can lead to painful foot and joint deformities and even kidney problems. But, by treating gout early, you can ease pain and help prevent future problems. Gout can usually be treated with medicine and proper diet. In severe cases, surgery may be needed.

What causes gout?

Gout is caused by too much uric acid . This is a waste product made by the body. Uric acid is excreted by the kidneys. If the uric acid level in your blood rises too high, it may form crystals that collect in the joints. This brings on a gout attack. If you have many gout attacks, crystals may form large deposits called tophi. Tophi can damage joints and cause deformity.

Top view of foot showing bones of the foot with a gout inflammation and uric acid crystals.

Who's at risk for gout?

Men are more likely to have gout than women. But women can also be affected, mostly after menopause. Some health problems, such as obesity and high cholesterol, make gout more likely. And some medicines, such as water pills (diuretics), can trigger a gout attack. People who drink a lot of alcohol are at high risk for gout. Certain foods can also trigger a gout attack.

Substances that may trigger a gout attack

  • Alcohol (particularly beer, but also red wine and spirits)

  • Certain meats (red meat, processed meat, turkey)

  • Organ meats (kidney, liver, sweetbread)

  • Shellfish (lobster, crab, shrimp, scallop, mussel)

  • Certain fish (anchovy, sardine, herring, mackerel)

Treatment

  • Make lifestyle changes. These include weight loss, exercise, and quitting tobacco use.

  • Limit certain foods. Reduce your intake of the foods listed above that may trigger a gout attack. Also try to stay away from high fructose corn syrup, This is found in many foods including sodas and energy drinks.

  • Change some nonessential medicines. Some medicines may contribute to gout. This includes diuretics. Talk to your provider about other options.

  • Try medicines to reduce the amount of uric acid in the blood. These include allopurinol, probencid, febuxostat, and lesinurad.

  • Take medicines to treat sudden gout attacks. These include NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), steroids, and colchicine.

Online Medical Reviewer: Diane Horowitz MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2021
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