Gout symptoms, causes, treatments, and relation to kidney disease

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Gout is a type of arthritis that causes swelling and pain in your joints. Learn how kidney disease can lead to gout, and gout can lead to kidney disease.
Medically reviewed by
AKF's Medical Advisory Committee
Last updated
May 7, 2024

What is gout?

Gout is a type of arthritis. Arthritis is a common condition that causes swelling and pain in your joints. Gout is considered a chronic disease, meaning it does not have a cure and will usually last your whole life.

Gout comes in sudden, sometimes severe attacks, also called flares or flare-ups. During a gout attack you may have pain, swelling, and/or redness in your joints. Gout attacks often happen in the big toe but can affect any of your body's joints like your elbows, knees, hands, or ankles.  Gout is extremely painful and sometimes hard to control. Gout can be either acute or chronic.

Kidney disease can lead to gout, and gout can lead to kidney disease. If you have either condition, talk to your doctor about preventing the other.

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What is the difference between acute and chronic gout?

Acute gout

  • Usually only one to three joints are affected.
  • You will only feel symptoms during attacks.
  • Attacks may last from a few days to a week.
  • After attacks, you will not feel symptoms.
  • You may start by having acute gout but worsen to chronic gout in time if attacks happen more often.

Chronic gout

  • Chronic gout is having two or more gout attacks per year.
  • Often more than one joint is affected.
  • Some people with severe chronic gout have only short breaks in between attacks and feel symptoms of gout most of the time.
  • Chronic gout can lead to permanent joint stiffness, damage, and deformity.

What causes gout?

Gout is caused by having too much uric acid in your blood. Uric acid is made when your body breaks down chemicals called purines. Learn more about the causes of gout.

Who is at risk for gout?

Anyone can get gout, but it is more common in men than in women. Gout is more common in adults than in children. Learn more about the risks for gout.

What are the symptoms of gout?

Although many people have their first gout attack in one of their big toes, gout attacks can also happen in other joints. Learn more about symptoms of gout.

How can I manage gout attacks?

Gout attacks, also called flares or flare-ups, can come on suddenly and be extremely painful. Learn how to manage your gout attacks.

Why do gout attacks happen more at night?

Gout attacks happen more often at night and in the early morning than during the day. You may have an attack start during your sleep. Doctors are not entirely sure why this happens, but some of the leading ideas are dehydration, lower body temperature, and changes in hormone levels during sleep.

Talk to your doctor about ways to prevent gout attacks during your sleep.

What are the complications of gout?

Gout causes more than just pain. Gout, especially chronic gout, can lead to serious health problems in time if left uncontrolled. Learn about the complications of gout.

What are the tests for gout?

If you think you might have gout, it is important to get tested and diagnosed by a doctor so that you can get the treatment you need. Learn about the tests for gout.

What are the treatments for gout?

Taking too many medicines or taking certain medicines at the same time can be dangerous, so it is very important to talk to your doctor about the medicines you can take. Learn about the medicines available to treat gout.

Is gout preventable?

Gout is usually not preventable through lifestyle changes alone. Many people with gout need medicines to get their gout under control. Learn more about preventing gout.

What is the best eating plan for gout?

Certain foods and drinks are better than others for controlling gout. Learn more about foods and drinks to avoid when you have gout.

Gout and kidney disease

Most commonly, kidney disease can cause gout. However, gout can also lead to kidney disease. Since uric acid is filtered through the kidneys, the two diseases are related. Learn more about gout and kidney disease.

Where can I get more information?

Find a gout specialist

If you do not have a gout specialist, use this "Find a Gout Specialist" tool to identify health care professionals who are experienced in treating chronic gout.

Download the Goutful booklet

Learn the truth about gout and kidney disease. Download your free booklet about gout.