What is Gout?

Gout is a painful joint disorder that is a form of arthritis. All cases of gout result from excessive uric acid building up in the blood.


  • Eating foods high in purines, such as meat and seafood
  • Drinking alcohol, especially beer, or drinks sweetened with fructose

Diet alone is not always the reason for gout. People with high uric acid levels tend to be overweight, take diuretics, have impaired kidney function, or have a genetic predisposition to the problem. It’s still not entirely understood why some otherwise healthy people produce too much uric acid.

What are the Symptoms of Gout?

During an outbreak of gout, one or more of your joints will develop tenderness, stabbing pains, redness, and swelling. The big toe is the most commonly affected joint, but almost any joint is susceptible to uric acid crystallization.

Gout Causes

When too much uric acid builds up in your blood, it can crystallize in one or more joints. This causes a gout attack, characterized by the pain and inflammation of the condition. Uric acid is made by the body when purines are broken down. Purines come into your body both through the food you eat and through natural processes within your body. Common foods and drinks that are high in purines include beer, other alcoholic beverages, seafood, organ meats such as liver, drinks that contain fruit sugar and steak. Under normal conditions, uric acid will dissolve within the blood and is then excreted in urine. But when a patient makes too much of this substance or the kidneys don’t excrete enough of it, gout can be the result. The resulting crystals have a needle-like structure, and their accumulation is more common in men than women. There is a genetic component that makes this condition run in families. In many cases, it is lifestyles choices, specifically dietary choices, that cause this condition. In some cases, medications can cause this condition. In others, exposure to lead can be the cause.

How is Gout Treated?

There are two steps to treatment for gout. First, the doctor administers a corticosteroid shot or pill that reduces pain and swelling within one day.

Next, the doctor’s goal is to help reduce your uric acid levels for good by increasing kidney function when possible and changing diet choices. There are also medications that reduce your body’s production of uric acid.

You may need treatments focused on the affected joints as well if damage has already set in. Between finding the right medication and watching what you eat and drink, you should be able to prevent gout attacks from interrupting your life in the future.

Gout Prevention

If you have a history of gout in your family, going on a diet that is lower in purine-rich foods can be helpful in preventing this condition. Drink two to four litres of fluid each day. Drink alcohol in moderation, avoiding it completely if possible. Eat a diet that is balanced and that doesn’t rely too heavily on one food. Avoid eating a low-carb diet. Eat poultry, meat and fish in moderation. Make a list of high-purine foods and avoid or limit them in your diet. Some of the most common of these foods are game meats, dried beans, dried peas, anchovies, gravy, asparagus, liver, many types of fish, mushrooms, sweetbreads and scallops. In addition, maintaining a healthy weight will lessen the risk of developing gout. Patients who are overweight will have a higher production of uric acid and of systemic inflammation.

Last Reviewed:
September 13, 2016
Last Updated:
December 28, 2017