Harvard Men's Health Watch

How to prevent gout attacks

To reduce painful recurrences of gouty arthritis, know your uric acid level and take appropriate doses of medication.

Gout is a painful joint condition that affects 3.4 million American men. Historically, it was called the "disease of kings" because of its association with excess aristocratic consumption of mutton and mead, but the underlying cause is more down to earth: Gout attacks flare when uric acid, a chemical produced in the body, builds up to an excessive level and starts to form crystals in the affected joint. This triggers inflammation and severe pain, sometimes with fever, muscle aches, and other flu-like symptoms.

In 2012, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) issued its first-ever guideline for prevention and treatment of gout. If you are at risk, the key to escaping gout's excruciating grip is keeping uric acid below 6.0 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), according to rheumatologist Dr. Robert -Shmerling, associate professor of medicine at -Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "If you have frequent attacks of gout," Dr. Shmerling says, "it's good to know your number."

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »