What is Gout?

Gout is a type of arthritis with short periods of pain, swelling, and inflammation. Gout often affects the big toes, fingers, ankles, and knees. Stress, food, alcohol, or other illnesses may cause gout flares. Flares last 1-2 weeks and may be months or years apart.

Flares happen when crystals of uric acid (also called urate) build up in joints. The immune system responds to the build-up of uric acid. Uric acid can build up because of the foods you eat or if your kidney is not removing enough uric acid from the body.

Over time, as uric acid builds up in joints, you may notice hard lumps called tophi around the joints. Severe gout can lead to kidney stones and damage.

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Signs and Symptoms of Gout

During gout flares, you may have certain joints with:

  • Severe pain
  • Redness and warmth
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness to touch

Who has Gout

More than 9 million people in the United States have gout. That is about 4 in 100 adults.

Anyone can have gout. But some people have a higher risk of having it.

  • Gout is more common in men. Men are 3-10 times more likely to have gout than women.
  • People between 40 and 60 years old are more likely to have gout.
  • Gout is common among older adults—1 in 10 adults over 80 years old have gout.
  • People from racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to have gout. For example, Asian people are 2 times more likely to have gout than White people.

Risk Factors for Gout

Genes play a role in gout because they impact how uric acid is processed and removed from the body.  

Lifestyle factors can also increase the risk of gout, such as:

  • Being overweight
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Eating certain foods

Sugar-sweetened beverages, red meat, some types of shellfish, and alcohol all have high levels of purines. Purines can be turned into uric acid in the body. You may have high uric acid levels if you have drinks or foods with many purines.

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