The Ultimate Guide to Understanding What Gout Is (and Isn’t)

What Is Gout?

What Is Gout
Gout is a condition that plagues millions of people. It’s caused by a buildup of uric acid in the body either because there is too much or the body is excreting too little.

Referred to as the “disease of kings,” gout was historically associated with the royalty back then since only the rich could afford to drink alcohol, eat meat, and feast on other indulgences while the poor were stuck eating carbs and whatever produce they could harvest from their land.

Today, nearly 8 million Americans are affected by this type of arthritis, with most of it being older men.

What Causes Gout?

A condition where there are high levels of uric acid in the blood is called hyperuricemia. And although not all who have it develop gout, it is the underlying cause of people who have it.

Gout is a result of the body not being able to handle uric acids properly. Uric acid is a result of the breakdown of purines from the foods that we eat.

For people without gout, uric acid dissolves and goes into the urine through the kidneys, but too much uric acid causes buildup that accumulates in the joints and surrounding tissue. This sharp urate crystals that look like needles are what cause immense pain to the gout sufferer.

What Are the Symptoms of Gout?

Gout manifests itself through flares which can happen anytime without warning. The pain caused by a gout attack can range from mildly annoying to debilitatingly painful.


The affected area will feel hot and sensitive – so sensitive that even a light touch can feel so excruciating. It will also appear swollen, red or purplish and shiny. As the inflammation slowly goes away, the skin on the affected joint might feel itchy and flaky.

Attacks can last anywhere between a few hours to three weeks, and usually occur in the middle of the night when you least expect it. Experts suspect this is because of the lower body temperature at night accompanied by overnight dehydration and falling levels of the hormone cortisol.

It’s hard to fall back asleep during a gout attack due to the pain. This is why doctors recommend having medicine ready in your cabinet. The frequency of gout attacks and the level of pain all depends on how religious you are with taking your medication and following a strict gout-friendly diet.

When you experience a gout attack, it’s best to rest the affected joint to prevent the pain from getting worse. Also, make sure to have medication ready as this is the best relief to gout pain. Otherwise, you’d have to call your doctor to get a prescription.

For those who have chronic gout, the symptoms may not be as painful, but they are frequent. 62 percent of gout sufferers say they experience at least another one attack within a year. Careful not confuse this with arthritis by checking in with your doctor.

Some people go through life not knowing their uric acids are high until they get their first gout attack. If left untreated, gout symptoms can worsen, causing joint damage, kidney damage, and tophi.

Tophi are hard swellings that form in the joints and can grow so large that it affects your mobility or even break through the skin. In most cases, tophi have to be removed surgically if it already impairs movement.

Diagnosis for gout requires a sample fluid from the affected joint to check if uric acid crystals are present. Your doctor may take an x-ray of your joint and check how often you experience the pain, the intensity, and how swollen the affected area is.

Statistics About Gout

Here are important statistics to help you get more insight on gout:

  • 75 percent of gout sufferers are men.
  • Over 8.3 million Americans suffer from gout.
  • The average overall cost of gout is $2,800 per person.
  • Gout is partly genetic, contributing to about 60 percent variability in uric acid level.
  • About 10 percent of people with hyperuricemia, develop gout at some point in their lifetime.
  • A combination of abdominal obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance, and abnormal lipid levels, occurs in nearly 75 percent of gout cases.
  • A body mass index greater than or equal to 35 increases the male risk of gout threefold.

Next page: Where can you get gout? How do you get out? Can you prevent gout? And treatment for gout options. 

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