Although some of the signs and symptoms of gout are concerning, it’s not a contagious disease. Also, it may run in families, but it’s impossible to pass gout from one person to another.

Gout is a type of arthritis known for causing pain and inflammation in one joint before it may affect another. The big toe is one of the most commonly affected parts of the body. Gout may also cause severe redness and heat along with pain and swelling.

Due to some of the symptoms of gout, and with the toes often affected, many people wonder if this condition is contagious. They may also wonder if gout is curable or dangerous.

Arthritis itself isn’t a contagious condition.

Read through some of the most commonly asked questions about gout.

Gout isn’t a contagious condition, and you can’t pass it to other people. It results from a buildup of uric acid, an internal complication.

Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis, a group of joint conditions characterized by swelling, pain, and stiffness in your joints. It’s also considered the most common form of inflammatory arthritis. In addition, gout is in a subcategory of inflammatory arthritis called crystalline arthritis.

Most types of arthritis aren’t contagious. As well as gout, these include other common forms, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

One exception is infectious arthritis. Also called septic arthritis, this is a serious, acute condition resulting in an infected joint. It’s due to a bacterial infection. Although the arthritis itself isn’t contagious, the underlying bacteria can transmit to other people.

Also, while both gout and infectious arthritis usually affect one joint at once, these aren’t the same condition.

Without treatment or management, gout may reduce your quality of life. But it’s not fatal.

Some of the risk factors for gout, however, may lead to life threatening complications without treatment. These include certain chronic conditions, like:

Gout isn’t fatal, but it may involve reduced mobility. The pain in your affected joints may become so intense that you aren’t able to stay active or participate in everyday activities.

Also, while you can manage inflammation from gout with treatment, untreated gout can increase your chance of damaged joints. Such damage is irreversible and may further affect your quality of life.

Gout results from excess uric acid (hyperuricemia). Uric acid production is a normal function of the body, and it’s important in breaking down purines from certain foods you eat. But when your body produces too much uric acid, it can form into painful crystals in your joints.

Eating a high purine diet is one risk factor for hyperuricemia and gout. Such foods include organ meats, red meat, and seafood.

Other risk factors for hyperuricemia and subsequent gout include:

Although gout is due to hyperuricemia, not everyone with high uric acid levels develops this arthritis. Notably, 80% of people with hyperuricemia don’t develop gout.

Environmental factors are also possible contributors to gout, according to one 2022 review. Researchers are looking at factors like air pollution and significant temperature changes as possible risk factors when combined with genetics and personal health history.

As an inflammatory type of arthritis, gout causes severe pain and swelling in the affected joints. Unlike other types of inflammatory arthritis, gout usually affects one joint.

Although the big toe is the most common site affected, gout can also affect your other toes, your ankles, and your knees. Gout can also cause the affected joints to become red and feel hot. The pain is intense, and it often gets worse at night.

There’s currently no cure for gout, though researchers are constantly studying new drugs for potential gout treatment. That said, you can treat and manage gout to help prevent future flares and possible joint damage.

Gout flares tend to last 1–2 weeks before they get better. Severe gout may cause longer lasting flares that also develop more frequently.

Gout treatment focuses on reducing symptoms, preventing flares, and reducing uric acid in the body.

With that in mind, a doctor may recommend the following treatment options:

  • Pain medications: These may include acetaminophen (Tylenol) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Steroids: Corticosteroid shots or oral steroid medications can help reduce severe inflammation.
  • Colchicine: Available under the brand names Colcrys and Mitigare, colchicine is a prescription medication that helps manage gout flares.
  • Uric acid-lowering drugs: These medications may help prevent future gout flares and complications like kidney stones and tophi. Examples include allopurinol (Aloprim, Zyloprim), pegloticase (Krystexxa), and febuxostat (Uloric).
  • Chronic disease management: A doctor may recommend treatments for underlying conditions, such as hypertension or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle changes: These may include dietary changes, exercise, and weight loss.

Learn more about gout treatments.

Treatment for gout typically lasts for several days or weeks, depending on how long the flare lasts. Flares are then followed by times of remission, which may last for up to months or years before another flare occurs.

During remission, it’s a good idea to take steps for gout self-management to help reduce flare recurrence. These steps include eating a well-balanced diet low in purines, exercising, and managing underlying health conditions, like kidney or heart conditions, if you have those.

People with more severe gout or frequent flares may need ongoing treatment with uric acid-lowering drugs.

Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis that results from uric acid buildup in the body.

There’s currently no cure for gout, but you can manage current and future flares with a combination of treatments and lifestyle changes.

Treating gout can also help reduce your likelihood of complications, including permanent joint damage, as well as prevent kidney stones or kidney damage.