Most people have heard of gout, but few actually know what it is, what it's caused by and how it's treated. In fact, most would be shocked to know gout affects an estimated 8.3 million people or 4% of the population.

Linked to the growing obesity– and, consequently, hypertension–epidemic, gout causes swelling and severe pain to those it affects. In fact, gout is actually defined as a form of arthritis.

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What causes gout?

Gout is known as a form of inflammatory arthritis that can develop in people with high levels of uric acid in their blood. These high levels of uric acid can create needle-like crystals that cause sudden, severe pain and swelling in the body’s joints.

Some people are born with genes that put them at a higher risk of developing gout. For example, those whose parents have gout are 20% more likely to end up with the disease.

Alcohol and diet also play key factors in gout development. An increased intake of alcohol and a diet rich in red meats both put you at a higher risk.


Characterized by a rapid onset of pain in the affected joint, gout attacks often result in warmth, swelling, reddish discoloration and marked tenderness of the joint.

The most common site for an attack is the small joint at the base of the big toe, although other joints often affected include ankles, knees, wrists, fingers and elbows.

Usually, these attacks go away within a couple of days, although they've been known to last for weeks in some cases. Often, people with gout will continue suffering from periodic bouts for many years.

How is it diagnosed?

When you see a provider for gout symptoms, the first thing he or she will do is a joint aspiration. This is considered the most important test as it determines that your arthritis is caused from gout and not something else.

For this test, a needle will be inserted into the joint to withdraw fluid to test. Also, your provider may recommend a blood sample to take a look at cell counts, uric acid levels and kidney function.

Preventing gout attacks

One of the best ways to prevent gout attacks is to stay hydrated.

If you suffer from gout, it's also a good idea to limit alcohol consumption since it can have a diuretic effect, which contributes to dehydration.

Finally, dietary changes can help prevent gout attacks by reducing uric acid levels in the blood.


Most often, medication can help reduce pain and inflammation caused by attacks. Anti-inflammatory drugs, colchicine and corticosteroids are the most prescribed medicines to help treat gout symptoms.

Depending on the severity of your gout, you may require one or more of these classes of medications to treat your condition.

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Living with gout

If you’ve been diagnosed with gout, you have undoubtedly experienced the pain that goes along with it.

Unfortunately, arthritis is known to worsen during the cold winter months, which can make the pain feel unbearable at times.

Below are three tips to help you manage winter arthritis:

Exercise regularly

We say it all the time. Get out there and move! Regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to lessen the pain of arthritis. Check out our “Let’s Move” blog series to learn some fun ways to become more active.

Warm up

Although arthritis has not been scientifically proven to become more intense during the colder months, many patients report that their symptoms flare up in the winter.

Keeping your body warm throughout the year should lessen your pain. Some ways you can warm up fast are:

  • Taking a warm bath or dip in the hot tub
  • Wearing loose and layered attire during colder months
  • Limiting your time outdoors

*It’s important to consult with your provider before starting any new exercise program.

Vitamin D pays

Are you getting enough vitamin D? Chances are during the winter you’re not! Your skin uses sunlight to form vitamin D. Due to daylight savings time, daylight hours are shorter this time of year.

This can make sun exposure more difficult. With less sunlight available to you, your body may not be getting enough vitamin D. Thankfully, alternative sources of vitamin D can be found in several types of food and supplements including:

  • Fish
  • Fish oil
  • Egg yolks
  • Vitamin D supplements


It’s important that you take medications as prescribed to alleviate symptoms. If your joint is hot and swollen, a cane may help take some of the weight off the joint.

Elevating the joint may also keep pain at bay. Putting an ice pack on an inflamed and painful joint can also be helpful.

Remember to stay hydrated!

Food to avoid with gout

If you have been diagnosed with gout or are at risk of developing gout, there are a few tweaks you can make to your diet to alleviate flare-ups.

  • Keep your cholesterol and fat levels down (those with gout have a higher risk of heart disease)
  • Lower your weight if possible
  • Stay away from foods that are high in purine
  • Avoid fructose (i.e. corn syrup)
  • Add more dairy products, such as nonfat milk and yogurt, into your diet
  • Limit alcohol consumption (especially beer since it contains yeast)

Other helpful tips include staying hydrated, drinking cherry juice (this decreases the intensity of arthritis attacks) and avoiding a diet rich in red meats, yeast, shellfish and oily fish.

By following the dietary and lifestyle tips above, you can live a very normal life with gout.

CareNow® Urgent Care can help provide relief

If you have been diagnosed with gout and begin to experience a hot, red, swollen joint, it’s essential that you seek medical care as this may be a result of an infection or loss of joint cartilage.

You should also see a provider if you begin suffering from multiple attacks of arthritis. This may mean you need daily medication to prevent future flare-ups.

If you are suffering from gout and arthritis caused by gout, visit CareNow® for a uric acid test and to learn how you can minimize symptoms.

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Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.