Are you experiencing sudden and intense episodes of painful swelling at the base of your big toe, or in another joint in your foot? These symptoms are characteristic of gout, an excruciating and potentially debilitating form of inflammatory arthritis.
If left untreated, gout can lead to serious complications, including permanent joint damage. Fortunately, prompt professional treatment can help relieve the symptoms of a gout attack and provide a plan for managing the condition.
A skilled podiatrist can examine your feet and perform diagnostic tests to confirm—or rule out—a gout diagnosis. Here's what you need to know about this type of arthritis and the treatments available at Grandville Foot and Ankle.
Gout Causes and Symptoms
Gout is associated with uric acid, a byproduct that the body creates as it breaks down chemical purines found in certain foods and drinks. If the body produces too much acid or the kidneys can't process it effectively, it can form sharp, needle-like crystals that settle in the joints. This can cause sudden and often severe symptoms at the affected joint, including:
- Heat or warmth
These symptoms can come and go in periods known as flares and remissions, respectively. Fever and a hot, inflamed joint could also indicate an infection. Seeing a podiatrist to get a proper diagnosis is vital. If left untreated, gout can become chronic, allowing hard lumps known as tophi to develop in your joints and the surrounding skin and soft tissue. Tophi deposits can permanently damage your joints and may require surgical removal, which is why it's so important to seek professional treatment for gout while the condition is in its early stages.
Gout can affect anyone. However, certain factors may make you more prone to developing the condition. These include:
- Age and sex. Middle-aged men and postmenopausal women are more likely to develop this condition.
- Family history. People who have parents, siblings, or other family members with gout are more likely to develop it themselves.
- Medications. Taking diuretics, also known as water pills, or cyclosporine, an immunosuppressive drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, can increase your risk of gout.
- Certain health problems. Gout is linked to a number of other medical conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, thyroid disease, sleep apnea, obesity, and diabetes.
- Alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol can increase uric acid, raising your likelihood of developing gout or experiencing a flare-up.
- High purine diet. Consuming a lot of sugary foods and drinks, or eating a diet high in purine-rich foods like red meat, organ meat, and certain types of seafood, can lead to gout.
Gout shares symptoms with a variety of other conditions. An experienced podiatrist can provide an accurate diagnosis based on a thorough physical examination and the results of diagnostic tools such as ultrasounds, blood and/or joint fluid tests, X-rays, and other tests.
Successful Treatment and Management Requires a Multi-Pronged Approach
Gout can be treated and managed using a combination of medications and lifestyle changes. There are two different types of medications prescribed for gout, each with a different primary purpose. Some drugs ease the pain, swelling, and inflammation associated with severe gout attacks, while others are intended to control uric acid to prevent future flare-ups.
However, when it comes to managing gout, lifestyle changes are equally important. Recommendations may include reducing alcohol intake, losing weight, quitting smoking, or avoiding foods such as beef, pork, liver, anchovies, trout, tuna, scallops, mussels, and sardines.
In extreme cases, surgery may be necessary.
Schedule an Appointment
At Grandville Foot and Ankle, we're committed to providing the highest standard of care in podiatry. If you're experiencing gout symptoms, you don't have to suffer in silence. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our knowledgeable podiatrist, Dr. Sarah Stewart.