In most mammals purine degradation ultimately leads to the formation of allantoin. Humans lack the enzyme uricase, which catalyzes the conversion of uric acid to allantoin. The resulting higher level of uric acid has been hypothesized to play a role as an antioxidant. Hyperuricaemia is usually an asymptomatic condition which is hypothesized to play a role in cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Some hyperuricaemic individuals develop gout, an inflammatory arthritis caused by the deposition of monosodium urate crystals in joints. Over time, acute intermittent gouty arthritis can develop into a chronic condition with deposits of monosodium urate (MSU) crystals in joints and as tophi. The mechanisms by which MSU crystals lead to an acute inflammatory arthritis are under investigation and current knowledge is reviewed here. Treatment of gout includes management of acute flares with anti-inflammatory medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids and long term management with urate-lowering therapy when indicated. Future directions in the treatment of gout, in part guided by a better understanding of pathophysiology, are discussed.