All About Gout

August 2, 2023
All About Gout

Gout — a common form of arthritis that affects more than 3 million Americans — can be extremely painful. While the disease can’t be cured, the symptoms can be treated, and in some cases, the number of attacks can be reduced. Learning how to recognize gout can help you get proper care.

What Causes Gout?

Gout occurs when uric acid builds up and forms sharp crystals in the joints, creating pain and swelling.
You’re at a higher risk of having gout if you:

  • Are a man or postmenopausal woman
  • Have kidney disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure
  • Are overweight
  • Have a family history of gout
  • Eat a lot of shellfish or drink alcohol frequently
  • Take certain medications, including aspirin and diuretics

What Are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of a gout attack include:

  • Intense pain that comes on quickly, often at night
  • Initial pain affecting a big toe
  • Warm, red, and swollen joints
  • Symptoms that disappear, only to return

If you’re having a gout attack, see your healthcare provider right away. They can recommend medications to reduce your pain and swelling. If your attacks are frequent, your provider may also prescribe a daily dose of a medication to decrease your uric acid levels. Resting in bed and placing an ice pack on the affected area can increase your comfort.

Untreated gout attacks can last for days or weeks and can spread to additional joints. Lack of treatment can cause permanent damage to joints.

Living Better With Gout

Making certain changes to your lifestyle can help you live better with gout.

  • Cut back on alcohol.
  • Limit foods that are high in purine, such as salmon, sardines, herring, organ meats, mushrooms, and asparagus.
  • Eat less red meat.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Drink plenty of water.
Avoiding known triggers can make gout attacks less likely to occur.