What is Gout?

By Kathleen Diaz De Leon, PharmD Candidate 2022
Midwestern University - Glendale AZ

September 28, 2021

Gout Pain

You’ve likely heard of gout, but did you know that it’s the most common inflammatory joint disease among adults worldwide?   

While there isn’t currently a cure for gout, there are ways to help ease symptoms and reduce the frequency of attacks. Read on to learn more about this condition.

How Gout Affects the Body

Gout is a type of arthritis caused by a condition called hyperuricemia. Hyperuricemia occurs when there is too much uric acid in the blood. This can cause a buildup and formation of uric acid crystals, called tophi.

These tophi usually lodge in one joint at a time, most commonly the big toe. The crystals can then proceed to affect other, smaller joints in the hand, ankle and knee. These deposits can result in what’s called a gout flare. This occurrence can cause pain, swelling, redness and heat in the affected area.

A flare can start suddenly and last for weeks. The end of a flare is called a remission period. This period could last for years before another episode is experienced.

Who is at risk for gout?

Gout is diagnosed through a physician with a thorough workup that includes a physical exam and blood work. Some factors may raise your risk of this condition. They include:

  • Family history of gout
  • Male gender
  • Having certain health conditions such as:
    • Obesity
    • High blood pressure
    • Diabetes
    • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diuretic medications
  • High purine diet
    • Uric acid is produced by a breakdown in purines. Purines are found in many foods such as red meat, seafood (shellfish, scallops anchovies, sardines) yeast extracts and organ meat
  • Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Consuming excessive amounts of beverages containing high fructose corn syrup

How to help prevent gout attacks & flares

Lifestyle and diet play the most important roles in helping to prevent a flare.

These measures include maintaining a healthy body weight and incorporating 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise. This can include walking, water aerobics, or biking. It is also important to limit alcohol intake and consumption of high purine foods. Don’t forget to drink lots of water to help reduce uric acid buildup.

It’s smart to work proactively with your physician to manage conditions such as chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Your physician may also prescribe prescription medications like allopurinol and probenecid to help reduce uric acid levels.

How to treat gout attacks & flares

A variety of treatment options are recommended during a gout flare. To help with swelling and pain, elevating the joint and icing the area is ideal. First-line pharmacological treatment can include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS): Used to relieve pain and swelling; can possibly shorten an attack
  • Corticosteroids: Can help relieve joint pain and inflammation
  • Colchicine: Anti-inflammatory

Many of these medications will be prescribed by your physician. Some NSAIDs such as ibuprofen can be found over-the-counter. It’s important to talk with your provider about any underlying health conditions before starting any NSAIDs. 

When evaluating your options for gout treatment, it can sometimes be challenging to ensure that medication costs fit your budget. Consider signing up for a prescription discount card like ScriptSave® WellRx, and don’t forget to compare medication prices at pharmacies near you before filling your next prescription.

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