Source:  American Family Physician, September 2007

Gout: What You Should Know

What is gout?

Gout is when you have too much uric acid in your body. Uric acid can build up and form crystals. The crystals can cause kidney stones, joint pain called arthritis, or deposits under the skin called tophi (TOE-feye).

Who gets gout?

Men older than 30 years are most likely to get gout. Women can get it but usually not until after menopause.

You are more likely to get gout if you are overweight, drink alcohol, or take diuretics (water pills) for high blood pressure. You are also more likely to get it if you are taking certain medicines after having an organ transplant.

What is a gout attack?

A gout attack is when you have sudden pain, redness, and swelling in a joint. It usually happens at the base of the big toe, but it can happen in other joints. The pain can make even light touch to the joint seem unbearable.

How will my doctor know if I have gout?

Your doctor may suspect gout because of your symptoms. Your doctor may examine your blood and fluid from the joint to be sure.

How is gout treated?

Medicine can help stop the pain and irritation in the joint during a gout attack. If you keep having attacks, your doctor may give you medicine to lower the level of uric acid in your body. You should keep taking the medicine even if you have another attack.

Staying at a healthy weight can lower your risk of having another attack. If your doctor says it's okay, walk 20 minutes a day for exercise. You should not drink a lot of alcohol (especially beer) or eat a lot of red meat and seafood.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

American College of Rheumatology
Telephone: 1-404-633-3777
Web site:

Arthritis Foundation
Telephone: 1-800-283-7800
Web site:

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Telephone: 1-877-226-4267
Web site:

Medline Plus
Web site:

UpToDate Patient Information
Web site: (click on Arthritis and Rheumatism, then on Gout)

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

Copyright 2007 American Academy of Family Physicians.
Individuals may photocopy this material for their own personal reference, and physicians may photocopy for use with their own patients. Written permission is required for all other uses, including electronic uses.