What Is Gout?

When you hear the word “gout” you might think of Charles Dickens or other old literature. Gout is what causes old gentlemen in vintage cartoons to need to put a bandaged foot up on a hassock.

But gout is also a common form of inflammatory arthritis that affects more than 200,000 Americans each year. Caused by a buildup of uric acid, it causes painful swelling of the joints, especially the big toe. 

That’s where the foot on the hassock part of the story comes from.

Symptoms of gout

Gout causes pain and swelling in the joints, especially in the big toe. It can show up in fingers, knees, and other joints as well. It can flare up for a couple of weeks, die down, and then return repeatedly.


Advanced gout can lead to accumulations of uric acid crystals around the joints. These are called tophi, and can erode bone and damage the joint. It is possible for gout to lead to difficulty in movement.

Causes of gout

Gout is caused by high levels of uric acid. Uric acid is usually broken down in the body and flushed away in urine. If uric acid levels become too high for the kidneys to handle, they can result in gout.

Gout is often seen in people who eat lots of red meat, especially organ meats, as well as seafood. Drinking beer and other alcoholic drinks or beverages sweetened with fructose can also encourage gout. Sweetened fruit drinks like fruit punch and sugary sodas are typically sweetened with fructose.

Some medications can increase the chances of gout, and so do chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and heart and kidney diseases. High blood pressure can also be a factor. 

Gout can also run in families.

Treatment of gout

Gout has no cure, but cutting back on red meat, beer, and sugary drinks can help reduce the chances of flares. 

Symptoms of gout can be treated with a variety of medications, including corticosteroids and Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil, Motrin IB, and ibuprofin.

There are also medications that help your body handle uric acid. 

Exercise can also help. Since being overweight can increase chances of gout, regular exercise and weight management can make a difference.

If you have questions about gout, you may want to visit a rheumatologist or a podiatrist. Make an appointment with MANA Foot and Ankle Clinic or ask your primary care physician for a referral.