Gout is caused by the build-up of uric acid in the blood, a condition known as hyperuricemia, explains WebMD. The exact cause of hyperuricemia is not known, but researchers believe genes are a contributing factor.
Uric acid can lead to crystal formation in joints, which causes the pain and swelling associated with gout, notes WebMD. The formation of crystals in joints can take several years, so a patient may not know he has a high concentration of uric acid in his blood until he experiences a gout attack. A gout attack can cause pain and swelling in joints, which normally starts during the night. The most common joint to experience gout is in the big toe, but it can also present in the foot, ankle and knees.
At the sudden onset of gout, a physician may prescribe large doses of one or more medication, such as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug or corticosteriods, to reduce pain and swelling, states WebMD. Long-term medications such as uricosuric agents or xanthine oxidase inhibitors may also be prescribed. A diet that limits the intake of purines can help control the amount of uric acid in the bloodstream. Overweight people tend to experience gout more than others, so a diet low in fat may help a patient lose weight and control their symptoms.