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January 2023

What Is Gout—and Who Gets It?

It might not sound so bad to have what was once called the “disease of kings.” But gout—previously blamed on the rich foods and alcohol royalty might enjoy—can be painful.

The nickname is misleading in other ways, too. Gout is not caused by decadent food and drink, and it affects a wide variety of people.

Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis, which is a group of diseases caused by an overactive immune system. It typically affects one joint at a time. Often, it’s the big toe, but gout can occur in other toes, the ankle, the knee, and other joints, causing pain, swelling, heat, or redness.

The condition can come and go. Sometimes it’s very painful, but at other times there are no symptoms at all.

Who gets gout?

You’re more likely to have gout if you’re a middle-aged man. Women can get it, too, but usually not until after menopause.

You’re also at higher risk if you have:

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart failure

  • Diabetes

  • Insulin resistance

  • Poor kidney function

Gout and race

A recent study found that gout is more common in Black adults than white adults—a difference that didn’t exist two decades ago. But when researchers accounted for certain factors, such as excess body fat, poor diet, and chronic kidney disease, the racial differences disappeared.

Your race doesn’t necessarily determine whether you’ll get gout. If you do develop gout, you can take steps to manage it, such as maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, and managing any chronic conditions you have.

If you live in an area where nutritious groceries are hard to find, try to shop at farmers markets or look for healthy options at small stores. And remember, you don’t need a gym or fitness center to exercise. You can get physical activity anywhere—even at home—by running in place, doing jumping jacks, or using household items like canned goods as weights.

Getting treatment for gout

If you think you have gout, let your healthcare provider know. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.

Treatments for gout vary. They might include medicines and changes to your lifestyle, such as drinking fewer alcoholic beverages and losing weight.



Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/20/2022
© 2000-2023 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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