Gout Complications

Complications of Gout

Gout is the painful and acute onset of an inflammatory arthritis caused by the buildup of uric acid in the blood. Many people who experience one gout attack never have a second one. Others develop chronic gout, or repeated attacks that happen more often over time. Chronic gout can lead to more severe problems, especially if left untreated.

Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about gout or the complications it can sometimes cause.

Lifestyle Disruption


Gout attacks most often come on at night and wake you from sleep. Continued pain can keep you from falling back asleep. A lack of sleep can lead to a variety of issues including fatigue, increased stress, and mood swings.


The pain of a gout attack can interfere with walking, household chores, and other everyday activities. In addition, the joint damage caused by repeated gout attacks can cause permanent disability.


Tophi are deposits of urate crystals that form under the skin in cases of chronic gout. These occur most often in the hands, feet, wrists, ankles, and ears. Tophi feel like hard bumps under the skin and are usually not painful, except during gout attacks, when they become inflamed and swollen. As tophi continue to grow, they can erode the surrounding skin and tissues of the joints, causing damage and eventual joint destruction.

Joint Deformity

If the cause of gout is not treated, acute attacks happen more and more often. The inflammation caused by these attacks, as well as the growth of tophi, causes damage to joint tissues. Joints can eventually come out of alignment and become immobile.

Kidney Stones

The same urate crystals that cause the painful symptoms of gout can also form in the kidneys. These can create painful kidney stones. High concentrations of urate kidney stones can interfere with kidney function.

Kidney Disease

According to the National Kidney Foundation, many people with gout also have kidney disease. This sometimes ends in kidney failure. However, there are conflicting opinions as to whether pre-existing kidney disease creates the high uric acid levels that cause gout symptoms.

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Heart Disease

Gout is common among people with high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and heart failure.

Other Conditions

Other medical conditions associated with gout include:

  • cataracts or the clouding of the lens of the eye, which impairs vision
  • dry eye syndrome
  • uric acid crystals in the lungs (rare)

Long-Term Outlook

If diagnosed early, most people with gout can live a normal life. If you have advanced disease, lowering your uric acid level can improve joint function and resolve tophi. Medication and lifestyle or dietary changes can also help ease symptoms and reduce the frequency and severity of gout attacks.

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Video: Gout Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Gout is a condition caused by a build-up of uric acid that can affect a variety of joints, including the feet, ankles and knees. Its trademark pain point is typically the big toe.

Unfortunately, symptoms of gout often come suddenly, producing intense pain that can disrupt your life. These episodes are known as flares, and people often describe the pain as if their joints are on fire. Ignoring the painful symptoms of gout can lead to further problems, such as arthritis and damage to the affected joints. Uric acid crystals can also collect, typically on joint surfaces and are called tophi. These typically affect the hands, feet, wrists, ankles, and ears, and can be sites for painful inflammation during a flare.

Fortunately, people who are diagnosed early and actively treat their condition can live normal, full lives. Gout is diagnosed by measuring the levels of uric acid in the blood, as well as a physical examination of your joints.

Two different types of medications—preventative and anti-inflammatory—have proven to be effective to reduce the painful symptoms of a flare, as well as prevent other complications in the future. Preventative medications, such as selective uric acid re-absorption inhibitors, reduce uric acid buildup in the body, while anti-inflammatory medications work to calm the swelling and inflammation during a flare. These may include common over-the-counter medications, but your doctor may prescribe medication that’s more effective and tailored to at managing the symptoms of gout.

While there is no cure yet, new treatments are being developed to be used in conjunction with existing gout medications. A rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the joints and connective tissue, can help you discover new therapies for your gout.

Diet also plays an important role for gout patients, as certain foods can trigger a flare. Uric acid is created when your body breaks down an organic substance known as purines.

Foods that are especially rich with purines include organ meats, fish, seafood, whole grains, beer, certain vegetables, and sugars. While it may be difficult to adhere to a purine-free diet, avoiding foods high in purines can help keep acid levels down and prevent a painful flare.

Besides flares, gout is also associated with other health conditions, such as kidney disease, heart disease, and vision impairments. Managing gout symptoms also helps prevent these and other harmful health outcomes.

Avoiding foods high in proteins, taking preventative and anti-inflammatory medication, and communicating with your doctor are three very important steps to managing your condition. If you’d like to learn more about treating gout, take a look at the information we have here at Healthline or make an appointment with your doctor.