What is Gout?

Gout is a metabolic disorder characterized by joint inflammation and, in later stages, ulcerations of the skin.

With gout, the areas most commonly affected are the big toe, forefoot, ankles, knees and wrists, although gout symptoms can be found all over the body.

Caused by unnaturally high levels of uric acid – a natural compound that is found in the body and produced as a by-product of many foods – gout occurs when the body’s inability to metabolize uric acid results in the formation of crystals in the joints, which become warm, red, swollen and painful from resulting inflammation. In extreme cases, gout can result in kidney dysfunction.

  • Gout is a heterogeneous disease; like asthma, autism, or cancer, it is a single condition that has a variety of different causes. It is also one of the oldest-known diseases; it is believed that ancient Egyptians documented cases of gout over 4,000 years ago.
  • Gout is systemic, meaning it affects many of the body’s systems (joints, bones, tissue, organs).
  • Gout can be self-limiting, meaning flare-ups of most symptoms can run their course with or without medication; however, without the use of medication designed to changes to diet and, persistent attacks of “gouty arthritis” can be chronic over time, and lead to permanent bone damage.

People can be genetically pre-disposed to flare-ups of gout symptoms, regardless of diet, requiring persistent treatment and management.

Learn more about gout in this section - scroll down or click a topic at left.