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What is the Difference Between Gout and Arthritis?

By Vanessa Harvey
Updated Feb 16, 2024
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Although gout and arthritis are both characterized by pain in the joints, the underlying causes of that pain are different. The accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints, causing swelling and pain, is known as gout. This condition causes flare-ups characterized by inflammation of the joints, which is itself arthritis. There are various forms of arthritis with underlying causes other than the accumulation of sodium urate crystals. Gout and arthritis differ in the joints they affect, in the age and gender of the people who suffer from them and in the treatment and drug therapy prescribed for these conditions.

Arthritis can be degenerative or rheumatoid, among other types of the condition. Gout is neither considered degenerative nor is it an auto-immune disorder, which is the case with rheumatoid arthritis. Although gout and arthritis affect people of all ages and both genders, there are some marked differences seen in the patients who have been diagnosed with these conditions. Middle-age men as well as women who have gone through menopause comprise the majority of gout sufferers. Younger people rarely develop gout, but those who suffer from it before age 30 tend to have very severe symptoms.

Sufferers of osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative arthritis, have few to no symptoms at all when they are young. Rheumatoid arthritis, unlike gout, afflicts females much more often than males, and it usually occurs between the ages of 25 and 50. Gout and arthritis differ not only in the type of patients afflicted but also in the nature of the condition. For example, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, whereas gout is a condition that results when blood levels of uric acid are too high because of the failure of the kidneys to eliminate enough of this acid in the urine. This is why gout and arthritis might be treated with different types of drugs.

Immunosuppressive drugs sometimes are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, but not gout. Anti-gout drugs are often among the medications used in the treatment of gout, but not in other forms of arthritis. Gout and arthritis also differ slightly in the specific joints that are affected. Joints in the feet, particularly at the base of the big toe, as well as the ankle, knee, wrist and elbow, are the ones most affected by gout. Arthritis, on the other hand, can affect any of the joints but tends to cause pain in the fingers, neck, lower back, knees and hip.

Gout and arthritis also differ with respect to the control of flareups by patients. Sufferers of gout can help to diminish joint pain, known as gouty arthritis, by avoiding alcoholic beverages and high-purine foods. Alcohol interferes with the proper function of the kidneys and purines in foods are converted into uric acid by the body. High-purine foods include sardines, herring, asparagus, anchovies, organ meats and mushrooms.

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