What is Gout?

Gout is a potentially disabling form of arthritis characterized by inflamed, painful joints due to the formation of monosodium urate crystal deposits. It is sometimes referred to as the “disease of kings” because people have historically (though incorrectly) linked it to an overindulgence in food and wine only the rich and powerful could afford. In reality, gout can affect anyone and its risk factors vary. Risk factors can include obesity, chronic kidney disease, use of diuretics, regular alcohol use and eating too much meat, seafood or high fructose corn syrup.

Symptoms

Gout is characterized by sudden, recurrent attacks that often occur without warning. Severe, chronic gout may lead to deformity. The first symptoms are often intense episodes of painful swelling in single joints, most often the feet and especially the big toe (though any joint can be involved). The swollen site may be red and warm. Symptoms may include:

  • Severe, sudden pain and swelling in one or more joints (most often the joint in the big toe) which can develop over 24 hours
  • Red or purplish, tight, shiny skin over joint
  • Limited range of motion
  • Warmth in joint area
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • General feeling of illness
  • Hard lumps of urate crystal deposits under the skin (called tophi)

Treatment

Fortunately, gout is treatable, and there are ways to reduce the risk of recurrence, including:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications of colchicine to relieve pain and inflammation
  • Increasing fluid intake while avoiding alcoholic beverages
  • Reducing intake of protein-rich foods
  • Reducing weight (if obesity is a factor)
  • Medication to lower the uric acid level in the blood
  • Medication to block production of uric acid in the body
  • Surgery to remove extremely large tophi