We are using cookies to give you the best experience on our site. Cookies are files stored in your browser and are used by most websites to help personalise your web experience.

By continuing to use our website without changing the settings, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more
You are here:

What is gout?

Gout is a form of arthritis which can be intensely painful; and it's caused by having sodium urate crystals in your joints. These may be present for years without you knowing they're there, but on occasions they can trigger an attack of gout.

Attacks of gout usually come on very quickly, often during the night. Doctors describe this sudden development of symptoms as 'acute'.

At one time it was thought that gout was caused simply by overeating and drinking too much alcohol. While this can make attacks of gout more likely, it's not the whole story.

Gout is caused by chemical processes that take place in your body. A substance called urate builds up, sometimes because your kidneys aren't able to get rid of it quickly enough. Over a period of time this leads to urate crystals forming in and around your joints.

Once there are a lot of crystals in your joints some of them can trigger a sudden painful episode of severe joint inflammation ('attack') which usually settles back to appear normal within a week. If untreated these attacks get more common and spread to involve new joints.


0800 5200 520

Our new helpline: Call us for free information, help and advice on your type of arthritis. Open Mon–Fri 9am–8pm.

All calls are recorded for training and quality purposes

Virtual Assistant

Our new Arthritis Virtual Assistant uses artificial intelligence to answer your arthritis related questions 24/7.

Ask a question
For more information, go to
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.