Blog post

Gout, kidneys & joints: The three-way connection

In this guest post for Gout Awareness Day, the Arthritis Foundation discusses the connection between gout, your kidneys and your joints to help you understand this serious condition.
Goutful image with quote "It's just a pain your toe..."

While often talked about through jokes and silly comic strips in the local Sunday paper, gout is a serious condition and those that suffer from its effects aren't laughing. Imagine being in a deep sleep and suddenly waking up to sharp, intense pains in your joints that feel unbearable. Or, celebrating your birthday with friends and family and being unable to enjoy the festivities because your joints are swollen, tender, inflamed and pulsate at even the touch of your clothing over the affected area. Consider the mental stress that comes with knowing that gout's impact goes beyond your joints – it can also affect your kidneys. 

Although culturally thought to be a disease for people that overindulge in the pleasures of life such as eating tons of unhealthy foods, drinking and being a mainstay on the living room sofa, gout is a complex form of arthritis that can affect anyone…at any time. Gout happens when uric acid crystals build up in your joints, causing intense pain, swelling, redness and tenderness in specific joints. These crystals form when your body produces too much uric acid or has trouble eliminating it. Your kidneys play a vital role in filtering uric acid from your blood. If your kidneys aren't functioning optimally, uric acid levels can rise, increasing the risk of gout attacks, which can severely damage the organ – hence the three-way connection. 

Getting diagnosed with gout can be a heavy blow, mentally, physically and emotionally. You might wonder, "Am I unhealthy?" or "Can I even get better?" Breathe easy! While what you eat and drink and your lifestyle play a role, gout can affect anyone. The good news is, there are ways to manage it, and organizations like the Arthritis Foundation and the American Kidney Fund are here to support you.

Gout often requires medical management alongside lifestyle changes. This is because gout is linked to your kidneys and joints. By keeping your body functioning optimally and maintaining low uric acid levels, you can prevent joint damage and continue an active life, whether it's traveling or playing catch with your kids.

Here are some simple yet effective ways to improve your health from within:

  • Exercise regularly: Your kidneys love a good workout! Exercise helps control blood pressure. 
  • Follow a balanced eating plan: Limit purine-rich foods like organ meats, alcohol and high-fructose corn syrup. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains to improve your uric acid levels.
  • Communicate openly with your doctor: Honesty is key to getting the right treatment, including medicine that can keep uric acid levels down, if necessary, reducing joint damage and flares. This empowers you to take charge of your health and prevent future complications.

Easier said than done, right? Absolutely. But even then, there are resources available to help support you in your wellness journey. The American Kidney Fund and Arthritis Foundation have a host of offerings including support groups, in-person educational events, webinars and even a live hotline to help you be the best version of yourself…because remember, gout is not your identity, it is but another thing that you can master. 

Find out more about gout and how to manage it on the Arthritis Foundation's website or on the American Kidney Fund's website


Nick Turkas, MS

Nick Turkas, MS is the senior director of patient education and community connections at the Arthritis Foundation.