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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 relieve pain and help prevent future problems. Gout can usually be treated with medication and proper diet. In severe cases, surgery may be needed.


What causes gout?

Gout is caused by an excess of uric acid (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, the uric acid may form crystals that collect in the joints, bringing on a gout attack. If you have many gout attacks, crystals may form large deposits called tophi. Tophi can damage joints and cause deformity.

Man sitting up in bed holding foot

Who is 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 medications, such as diuretics (“water pills”), 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

To help prevent a gout attack, avoid these foods:

  • 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)


  • Lifestyle changes, including weight loss, exercise, and quitting tobacco use

  • Reducing consumption of the food groups above as well as high fructose corn syrup, found in many foods including sodas and energy drinks

  • Changing non-essential medications that may contribute to gout (such as thiazide diuretics—"water pills")

  • Medications to reduce the amount of uric acid in the blood, such as allopurinol or others

  • Medications to treat acute gout attacks, including NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines), steroids, and colchicine


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