Gout appears to come on suddenly, often in the form of a painfully swollen big toe or lower body joint. In reality, it’s the end result of a process that’s been taking place in the body for a while.

The underlying cause of gout is different from those things that trigger a gout attack. Gout is the result of excess uric acid in the body, a condition called hyperuricemia.

Uric acid is a substance that normally forms when the body breaks down purines, which are found in human cells and in many foods.  Uric acid is transported by the blood to the kidneys and eliminated in the urine. However, some people either overproduce uric acid or they produce a normal amount, but their kidneys can’t process it efficiently and so an excess of uric acid builds up. Some, but not all of those people may develop gout. 

Lifestyle factors, such as a diet high in certain high-purine foods, obesity and excessive alcohol use, especially heavy beer consumption, also can contribute to development of hyperuricemia and gout. 

Gout Triggers

Gout, the underlying condition, is caused by excess uric acid in the body. But what brings on a gout attack?

Medical or health triggers:

•  Joint injury

•  Surgery or sudden, severe illness

•  Infection

•  Taking certain diuretic medications for high blood pressure, leg swelling (edema) or heart failure

•  Taking the drug cyclosporine

•  Starting a uric acid-lowering treatment

•  Chemotherapy

Lifestyle triggers:

•  Crash diets and fasting

•  Drinking too much alcohol

•  Eating large portions of certain foods high in purines (red meats or shellfish)

•  Dehydration

•  Drinking sweet sodas