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Gout is a real pain — but it can be treated

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension


Anyone who has been awakened in the middle of the night by a sharp, strong pain in their big toe knows that gout is a very real condition. Gout — which is described as unexpected, severe attacks of pain, and tender joints — is a form of arthritis that occurs when too much uric acid builds up in the body.


Uric acid is a by-product of the breakdown of purines in the body. Purines are found in all of the tissues of the body. They are also found in many foods like organ meats, dried beans, peas, anchovies and gravies. Uric acid usually dissolves in the blood, and then passes through the kidneys and out of the body in urine. Uric acid can build up in the blood when the body increases the amount made, the kidneys aren’t able to get rid of it or when a person eats too many foods high in purines.


Men are more likely to develop gout than women. Men usually develop gout between the ages of 40 and 50, while women most often develop it during or after menopause. Risk factors that contribute to developing gout include being overweight and drinking too much alcohol. Some medications put people at risk for developing gout, and people who have untreated high blood pressure or other chronic conditions like diabetes, high levels of fat and cholesterol in the blood or narrowing of the arteries may also be at risk. About 20 percent of the people who develop gout have a family member who has had it.


Most people who have gout are able to control the symptoms — but it is important for them to seek treatment from a doctor. The first goal is to relieve pain. Next, the physician will work with the patient to prevent future attacks and prevent long-term damage to affected joints.


To decrease the severity of attacks and reduce the risk of future attacks, doctors may recommend limiting alcohol and high purine foods, and, if necessary, losing weight. New research also suggests that low-fat dairy products, vitamin C and wine may help prevent gout.


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Last Updated 08/12/2009