One of the most difficult questions I face each day is “What is gout?”

It should be easy to answer.

I know exactly how gout works. I know what causes gout, and I know how to control it.

More importantly, I know how to help you control gout, but writing a simple description, is difficult.

Sure, I can describe all the processes involved, and I do that throughout this website. But explaining biological processes and medical techniques is not very helpful to most people. Before long, you are confounded by terms like uric acid, urate, inflammatory response, colchicine, synovial fluid analysis, prophylaxis, allopurinol, crystal induced arthritis, and many more. These are all relevant, but do they give you a simple gout definition?

What is gout to you?

In this situation, I believe it helps to focus on the effects of gout rather than what gout is. The next question after “What is gout?” is almost always “How do I fix gout?”

You know the pain of gout, but just saying: gout is a pain, does not help. There are many other types of pain. We speak of headache, or toothache. Gout is often described as footache (the old term is podagra, but that means footache).

Faced with something familiar, like pain, in an unfamiliar setting, like gout, I find it useful to compare gout with something you understand. Though they hurt for very different reasons, gout and toothache have many similarities. Let’s see how they compare.

What Is Gout Compared To Toothache?

Aspect Toothache Gout Notes
Pain level Discomfort to unbearable Discomfort to unbearable Both hurt to the point where we have to stop the pain, and stop it coming back.
Pain Control Treat infection and block pain Treat inflammation and block pain Use most appropriate meds as advised by your dentist/doctor/pharmacist.
Stop Recurrence Repair cavity Lower uric acid below 6 mg/dL (0.36 mmol/L) It is not acceptable to apply some filler to a cavity and hope for the best. It is not acceptable to prescribe uric acid lowering meds without checking they achieve safe levels
Treatment Apprehension Fear of discomfort and invasive procedure Fear of pills-for-life and side effects These fears are irrational. Learn to overcome them, or get therapy.
Consequences Of Not Treating Pain gets worse, more frequent and spreads to other teeth. Teeth lost. Pain gets worse, more frequent and spreads to other joints and tissues. Lumps grow under skin and may burst through. Joints destroyed and kidneys fail.

What Is Gout?

Gout is a progressive disease that starts with one or two intensely painful, swollen joints. Swelling subsides in a few days, but gout spreads slowly to harm more joints and soft tissues, especially skin and kidneys. It is generally easy to control by lowering uric acid to safe levels. If left untreated:

  • Erosion of bone, cartilage, and tendons leads to joint destruction
  • Lumps grow under the skin, restricting mobility, and they burst through, risking infection.
  • Stones grow in the kidneys reducing kidney function, risking death.

Gout and Teeth

What Is Gout: Next Steps

The saddest thing in the gout world is seeing someone struggle to walk in their 70s and 80s, when they could have stopped the problem in their 40s or 50s.

It is never too soon to lower uric acid to safe levels. Every day, you leave uric acid uncontrolled, is another day of extra risk to your joints, skin, and kidneys.

Do not be complacent even if you are taking gout treatments. If uric acid is not at safe levels, your health is at serious risk. Less than 1 in 2 doctors understand this, so today is the day you must take control.

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Does this explain “What is gout” to you? If you can improve this gout definition, please share your opinions in the gout forum. If it leaves you with more questions, please ask them in the gout forum. Whatever you have to say about What Is Gout, please click the Ask Now button, or start your own gout discussion.

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