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Gout FAQs

Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

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Q:Gout is a form of arthritis. True or false?


Gout is a painful type of arthritis that develops when uric acid builds up in the body, leading to the formation of uric acid crystals in the joints. The big toe is a common site affected by gout, but it can also affect other joints including the knees, ankles, heels, or toes. Affected joints are painful, red, swollen, and warm.

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Q:Gout is most often seen in whom: Men or women?


Gout is nine times more common in men than in women. It predominantly attacks males after puberty, with a peak age of 75. In women, gout attacks usually occur after menopause.

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Q:Gout is caused by the buildup of what substance in the body?

A:Uric acid.

Uric acid crystals that build up in the joints, causing inflammation, are the cause of the characteristic symptoms of gout. Uric acid deposits can also occur beneath the skin (called tophi), and uric acid can also form kidney stones.

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Q:Uric acid is eliminated from the body through urine. True or false?


Uric acid is normally carried in the blood stream and excreted in the urine.

Uric acid is a product formed when substances called purines are broken down. Purines are part of normal human tissues and are contained in many foods.

If the kidneys do not remove enough uric acid from the body, blood levels of uric acid are elevated (known as hyperuricemia). Hyperuricemia can also be caused by eating foods that are particularly rich in purines like liver, anchovies, dried beans, and gravies. Although hyperuricemia is not dangerous for the body, it sometimes leads to the formation of uric acid crystals and the development of gout.

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Q:What should people with gout should avoid consuming?


Because alcohol interferes with the body's ability to remove uric acid, people with gout should avoid drinking alcohol. Alcoholic drinks, drugs, an illness, or even a stressful event can trigger an attack of gout. Attacks usually last for 3-10 days. Another attack may not occur for months to years, but many people with gout experience more frequent and longer attacks over time.

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Q:What are the symptoms of gout?

A: Symptoms of gout generally include the following: Warmth, pain, swelling, and extreme tenderness in a joint, an very red or purplish skin around the affected joint, which may appear to be infected. As the gout attack subsides, the skin around the affected joint may peel and feel itchy.

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Q:What is the most common site of a gout attack?

A:The most common sign of gout is a nighttime attack of swelling, tenderness, redness, and sharp pain in the big toe.

Gout attacks also appear in feet, ankles, knees, fingers, heels, and elbows.

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Q:An excessive amount of uric acid in the body can also lead to what condition?

A:Kidney stones.

As mentioned before, gout is not the only manifestation of excess uric acid in the body. Uric acid can also form kidney stones.

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Q:What increases a person risk for developing gout?

A:Family history.

Gout tends to run in families; between 20-80% of those affected have a family history of the disease. Diets high in purines, male gender, overweight, lead exposure, and alcohol consumption are other risk factors.

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