Uric acid forms when the body breaks down the chemical called purine. The body makes purines and it can also be found in some foods. Sometimes the body makes too much uric acid. It may also have problems passing uric acid out of the body through the kidneys. Uric acid crystals form when uric acid levels get too high. This leads to gout.

Risk Factors

Gout is more common in men and older adults.

The main risk factor is having high levels of uric acid in the blood. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Eating foods high in purines, such as red meat, seafood, and alcohol
  • Eating or drinking things that are high in fructose, such as sugary drinks
  • Some medicines, such as diuretics, cyclosporin, and chemotherapy drugs
  • Obesity
  • Having certain health problems, such as congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, or kidney disease



Problems may be:

  • Sudden severe pain in a joint, usually starting in the big toe
  • Joints that are red, hot, and swollen

The pain may last a few days or weeks. It may go away and then come back. It often affects only one joint at a time.

Gout of the Big Toe
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The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Uric acid levels will be tested. This can be done with:

  • Joint fluid tests
  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests

Pictures may be taken of the joint. This can be done with:

  • X-ray
  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan



The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms and prevent flare-ups. This can be done with:

  • Supportive care, such as keeping clothes or bedding off the joint to ease pressure
  • Medicines to ease swelling and pain, such as ibuprofen, corticosteroids, and colchicine
  • Stopping or changing medicines that may be causing gout
  • Dietary changes, such as a low-purine diet and limiting alcohol and sugary drinks
  • Lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise


To lower the risk of gout:

  • Eat a low-purine diet.
  • Limit alcohol and sugary drinks.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.