Overview of Gout

Big Toe Image

Gout is a disease caused by the buildup of uric acid in the joints. It results from an elevated blood level of uric acid (hyperuricemia), which occurs when the liver produces more uric acid than the body can excrete in the urine, or when a diet high in rich foods (e.g., red meat, cream sauces, red wine) produces more uric acid than the kidneys can filter from the blood.

Over time, uric acid in the blood crystallizes and settles in the joint spaces, causing swelling, inflammation, stiffness and pain.

Gout usually affects the first metatarsal phalangeal joint of the big toe (hallux) or the ankle joints.

Gout Incidence and Prevalence

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gout affects approximately 3 million people in the United States each year. Overall, more than 6 million American adults have had gout during their lifetime.

The condition is more common in men between the ages of 40 and 50, and in women, incidence increases after menopause. Gout is rare in children and young adults.

Publication Review By: John J. Swierzewski, D.P.M.

Published: 31 Dec 1999

Last Modified: 17 Sep 2015