A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Man up: Win the bout with gout

Man up series: Gout - doctor with mustache iconEditor’s note: This is part of a series of articles focused on health issues men need to talk about with their primary care physicians.

Gout is a form of arthritis that can be extremely painful and persistent. The good news is you can take steps to prevent the disease from taking root or recurring. Women can get gout, though it is more common in men.

Gout occurs when crystals deposit in a joint or body part, said Marshfield Clinic sports medicine physician Dr. Adam Atkins. Crystals form because of a buildup of uric acid in the body, which is often linked to diet. Gout also can occur because a person’s kidneys struggle to clear uric acid.

You are what you eat

“Generally, you should try to limit or avoid red meat, shellfish and foods with high levels of saturated fats, if you want to avoid gout,” Atkins said. Staying hydrated also is an important component of keeping gout at bay.

Aside from what you eat, gout also is more likely to occur in:

  • People with a family history of gout
  • Overweight individuals
  • People who consume more than two alcoholic drinks per day

Where gout occurs in the body

While gout commonly occurs in the big toe, most patients Atkins sees experience gout in the knee.

“Gout mostly affects the lower extremities, but it is possible to find gout in an upper extremity,” Atkins said. “Most of the patients I see who have gout have a swollen joint. I diagnose it by drawing fluid from the joint, and then I send it to the lab to test for crystals.”

Gout typically affects only one joint for people. For some, gout occurs a single time. For others, it is a recurring problem.


Dr. Atkins noted a few common symptoms that may indicate the onset of gout, including:

  • A quick onset of severe pain in the affected joint
  • Swelling in the affected joint
  • Redness and warmth in the affected joint

Preventing gout

“Eating a diet that has a moderate amount of protein and low fat, getting plenty of exercise — these are things that will help prevent gout,” Atkins said.

If lifestyle modification doesn’t work, a medication called allopurinol can be effective in preventing gout. The medication works by lowering uric acid levels in the body.

If you are experiencing symptoms of gout, contact your primary care provider.

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