Gout

Also known as gouty arthritis

Gout is an extremely painful form of arthritis that affects more than three million Americans each year. Also known as gouty arthritis, the disease is caused by the formation of uric acid crystals in a joint (most often the big toe), triggering severe pain, redness, and swelling.

While certain factors like genetics or kidney disorders may predispose you to gout, your diet, alcohol, and obesity can also contribute.

Without proper treatment, gout attacks tend to get worse every time they strike. Treatment may include over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs to alleviate pain and reduce uric acid levels. You can further minimize the frequency of attacks by losing weight, exercising regularly, and avoiding trigger foods.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes gout?

    Anything that impairs kidney function or causes chronic inflammation, both of which can increase uric acid levels, can increase your risk of gout.  That includes: 

  • What does gout look like?

    In its early stages, gout causes infrequent arthritis attacks associated with extreme pain and swelling in a single joint.. As it progresses, the arthritis attacks become more frequent and involve more than one joint. In long-standing gout you may develop lumps under the skin due to deposits called tophi.

  • What does gout feel like?

    During a gout attack, the affected joint is extremely painful, stiff, and warm. Some people say it feels like being stabbed or breaking a bone. This may be accompanied by fatigue or mild fever. In the later stages, you may experience chronic arthritis symptoms. Common locations include the:

    • Big toe
    • Knee
    • Ankle
    • Heel
    • Midfoot
    • Elbow
    • Wrist
    • Fingers
  • How long does gout last?

    Gout attacks are known to come on quite suddenly, with the first 36 hours being the most painful. In some cases, the attack may go away quickly and on its own. However, most of them will last for a week or so, and possibly even several weeks or longer if you don’t get proper treatment.

  • What foods cause gout?

    Purines are chemical compounds in some foods, and they create the uric acid that leads to gout attacks. Avoiding purines can help you manage symptoms. Purine-containing foods include:

    • Red meat
    • Organ meats
    • Coldwater fish
    • Some types of shellfish
    • Yeast extract
    • Beer
    • Liquor
    • Sugar
  • Is gout hereditary?

    Not all cases of gout come from genetic conditions but genetics can play an important role in your risk of developing gout. Genetic conditions that can lead to gout include:

    • Hereditary hyperuricemia
    • Hereditary fructose intolerance
    • Kelley-Seegmiller syndrome
    • Lesh-Nyhan syndrome
    • Medullary cystic kidney disease

Key Terms

A Closer Look at Gout

Explore interactive models that show how gout affects the human body—in this case, the foot—and how chronic inflammation can lead to the formation of hard, crystalline tophi over time.

gout crystals
What Are the Crystals That Cause Gout and Pseudogout?
person with gout holding foot
Pseudogout vs. Gout: What’s the Difference?
Foods to Eat and Avoid With Gout
Learn What Foods to Eat to Reduce Gout Symptoms
Man with painful and inflamed gout
Gout Removal: Is Surgery Necessary?
Pork being cut and served on a wood chopping block
Pork and Gout: What to Eat, What to Avoid
Bottle of apple cider vinegar next to a basket of apples
Does Apple Cider Vinegar Really Help Prevent and Control Gout?
Foods to Eat and Avoid With Gout
Foods to Avoid With Gout: Seafood, Yeast, Red Meat, and More
Fresh fish fillets for sale in seafood store
Fish and Gout: What to Eat, What to Avoid
Oatmeal porridge in bowl
Can You Eat Oatmeal if You Have Gout? Pros and Cons
Tuna Roll
Tuna and Gout: Pros, Cons, and Tips
Butterflied roast chicken
Chicken and Gout: How Much to Eat and Cooking Tips
Beef, a high uric acid food
Foods That Increase Uric Acid
woman slicing tomatoes
Tomatoes and Gout: Pros and Cons
Woman taking pills
What You Need to Know About Uloric (Febuxostat)
Urine and blood samples
Hyperuricemia and Kidney Disease
Gout pain
An Overview of Tophi in Gout
Page Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lanaspa, M.A., Andres-Hernando, A. & Kuwabara, M. Uric acid and hypertensionHypertens Res 43, 832–834 (2020). doi: 10.1038/s41440-020-0481-6

  2. Borghi C, Virdis A. Serum urate, uricase, and blood pressure control in gout: one size does not fit allHypertension. 2019;74(1):23-25. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.119.12831

  3. MedlinePlus. Gout. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US).

Additional Reading