Gout is a type of arthritis that causes inflamed, swollen and painful joints. While it often affects the large joint of the big toe, it can affect any joint in the body. Gout occurs when there are high levels of uric acid in the blood, causing urate crystal deposits to form in the joints.

Gout was once referred to as the “disease of kings” or the “rich man’s disease” as it was seen most often in people who had the means to overindulge in rich food and drink. But today it’s more of an equal-opportunity condition that can affect practically anyone.

Gout affects more men than women, and it is often linked with obesity, high blood pressure, high levels of lipids (fats) in the blood (hyperlipidemia), and diabetes.

Severe, chronic gout may lead to joint damage and deformity. In addition, uric acid crystals can form kidney stones, a complication that occurs in about 15 percent of people with gout.

That’s why it’s important to see a specialist who is knowledgeable about gout in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis and undertake appropriate treatment as soon as possible.

Why Choose Us to Treat Gout

Cooper University Health Care’s Division of Rheumatology has a team of expert, board-certified rheumatologists with extensive experience in diagnosing and treating gout. Our capabilities include:

  • Thorough diagnostic testing: Diagnosis begins with a careful medical history and physical exam. In addition:
    • The definitive diagnostic test takes a fluid sample from the inflamed joint and analyzes it for the presence of urate crystals
    • Musculoskeletal ultrasound may be performed to determine the presence of crystals or to rule out other causes of joint inflammation
  • Knowledge of the latest medical treatments: Treatment for gout usually involves medications to treat acute attacks and prevent future attacks.
    • As specialists, we are aware of the newest medications available
  • An emphasis on prevention—Because there is so much you can do to prevent future gout attacks, we provide comprehensive dietary counseling and review any other medications you’re taking that could worsen the condition  

Gout Causes and Risk Factors

Gout is caused by monosodium urate crystal deposits in the joints. These deposits are due to an excess of uric acid in the body, which may be caused by:

  • The body making too much uric acid
  • The kidneys’ inability to get rid of enough uric acid
  • Eating a lot of foods high in purines, a substance that turns into uric acid in the body

Foods high in purines include:

  • Alcoholic drinks and sugary drinks high in fructose
  • Certain meats, such as game meats, kidney, brains and liver
  • Dried beans and dried peas
  • Seafood, such as anchovies, herring, scallops, sardines and mackerel

Gout attacks may be triggered by:

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Eating a lot of protein-rich foods
  • Emotional stress
  • Fatigue
  • Illness
  • Minor surgery

You are at higher risk for gout if you:

  • Are a man
  • Are a postmenopausal woman
  • Have kidney disease
  • Have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes
  • Have family members with gout

Gout Symptoms

Gout causes sudden, recurrent attacks of symptoms that can occur without warning. While symptoms can appear a bit differently in each person, common symptoms include:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • General feeling of illness
  • Hard lumps of urate crystal deposits under the skin (called tophi)
  • Severe, sudden pain in one or more joints, most often the large joint in the big toe
  • Skin that’s red or purple, tight and shiny over the joint
  • Swollen joint(s)
  • Warmth in the joint area

Because some symptoms of gout can be similar to other health conditions, it’s important to see a qualified healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis.

Preventing Gout

You can reduce the risk of future gout flare-ups and lessen how severe they are by taking the medicine your doctor recommends as prescribed, and adopting healthy lifestyle habits, including:

  • Talk with your doctor before taking any new medicine, including over-the-counter medicines or supplements
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid sugary drinks high in fructose
  • Avoid foods that are high in purines
  • Eat fewer protein-rich foods
  • Exercise regularly
  • Lose weight, if needed

Make an appointment With a Gout Treatment Expert at Cooper

To learn more about the services available for treating gout in the Division of Rheumatology or to request an appointment, please call 800.8.COOPER (800.826.6737).