Gout is a kind of arthritis. It can cause a sensation of sudden burning, stiffness, and swelling in the affected joint (usually the big toe). This can happen over and over again unless gout is treated. Overtime, gout can harm your joints, tendons, and other tissues. Gout is most common in men.

The most common sign of gout is swelling, tenderness, redness, and sharp pain during the night. You can also get gout in your foot, ankle, knee, or other joints. The attacks can last a few days or many weeks before the pain goes away.


Gout is caused by too much uric acid in your blood. Most of the time, uric acid isn’t harmful. Many people with high levels in their blood never get gout. The problem develops when uric acid forms hard crystals in your joints.

Gout occurs most commonly in the big toe because uric acid is sensitive to temperature changes. At cooler temperatures, uric acid turns into crystals. Since the toe is the part of the body that is farthest from the heart, it is also the coolest part of the body and, thus, the most likely target of gout. However, gout can affect any joint in the body.

Your chances of getting gout are higher if you are overweight, drink too much alcohol, or eat too much meat and fish that are high in chemicals called purines. Some medicines, such as water pills (diuretics) can also bring on gout.


Contact a doctor immediately if you notice:

  • Intense pain that comes on suddenly, often in the middle of the night or upon waking up
  • Signs of inflammation, such as redness, swelling, and warmth over the joint

Potential Treatments

The goals of treatment for gout are fast pain relief, prevention of future gout problems, and maintenance of long-term complications, such as joint destruction and kidney damage. Treatment includes medicines and steps you can take at home to prevent future problems.

Specific treatment depends on whether you are having an acute attack or are trying to manage long-term gout and prevent future flare-ups.

To treat an acute attack:

  • Rest the affected joint(s).
  • Use ice to reduce swelling.
  • Consider nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Consider colchicine
  • Consider oral corticosteroids
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