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What causes gout?

Last Modified: May 22, 2019

Diseases & Disorders

To highlight National Gout Awareness Day, Ashley Bojrab, DPM, AACFAS, ABPM , PPG – Podiatry, explains how this condition presents and what can be done to prevent its painful effects.

Gout is an inflammatory condition affecting the joints. While this painful disease is most commonly seen in men between 40-60 years old, it can affect anyone.


The discomfort associated with gout is typically described as a red, hot and/or swollen joint. It can flare up in the middle of the night, and can be so painful that even contact with a bedsheet can be excruciating.

The joint at the base of the big toe is affected about 90 percent of the time, but other areas can be involved, as well, including the ankle and knee.


Gout is caused by elevated uric acid levels. Uric acid develops from the breakdown of purines, which occur naturally in our bodies and exist in the foods we eat. Foods have varying purine levels. Fruits, whole grains, rice, eggs, peanut butter, cheese and popcorn are typically low-purine foods. High-purine foods such as red meats, processed meats and beer can cause the onset of gout and should be avoided.

The kidneys’ inability to filter out uric acid can cause uric acid buildup, leading to symptoms of gout. Elevated uric acid levels cause a white, crystalline substance to build up in the joints, causing the excruciating pain many experience.


Gout can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight or working toward weight loss, and changing your diet. Seek medical attention if the pain persists.


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