Prepare to be surprised. Gout, a type of arthritis that typically affects the big toe joint, is the most prevalent type of inflammatory arthritis, and it affects 8.3 million people in the United States — mostly men — outstripping even the numbers who experience osteoarthritis.
Gout pain can be debilitating, and even though the big toe is most often affected, you can suffer gout pain in virtually any joint, from your ankles and knees to your wrists and fingers. Even worse, an attack can strike while you’re fast asleep.
The expert podiatrists at South Florida Foot & Ankle Centers have many years of experience treating patients with gout. Their priority is relieving the pain, helping patients make lifestyle changes to lower their chances of future attacks, and ensuring that they can enjoy active lives once again.
Why does gout develop?
The culprit behind gout is an accumulation of uric acid in your body. Uric acid production is stimulated by purines, chemical compounds that are present in certain foods, and your body produces them as well.
Typically your kidneys handle the job of filtering the uric acid, and you excrete it in your urine — but not always. Unfortunately, some people just tend to produce more uric acid than others, and sometimes your kidneys aren’t doing their filtering job sufficiently.
As the uric acid remains in your system, crystals develop in your joint, and these crystals provoke a nasty gout attack.
Aside from joint swelling and pain, which can last from hour to days and be excruciating, other gout symptoms include:
- A hot feeling in your affected joint
- Pain that lingers from days to weeks after the attack
Gout pain can be intermittent, but it can also be so bad that even the lightest contact can send you reeling. Gout can also limit your mobility.
When you come to South Florida Foot & Ankle Centers for gout evaluation and treatment, we confirm your diagnosis by testing, including using a microscope to check a fluid sample from your joint for uric acid crystals.
Gout prevention and treatment
If you’ve ever endured the agony of a gout attack, you want to do everything in your power to avoid another. You and your Florida Foot & Ankle Centers podiatrist are a team and can tackle prevention and treatment of gout together.
To head off attacks, your doctor may advise you to make lifestyle changes that can be quite effective.
1. Peel away purines from your diet
It’s critical to adopt a diet of foods low in purine to avoid gout attacks. Steer clear of red meat, certain seafoods, organ meats, sugary treats, and alcohol. Instead, embrace whole foods rather than processed foods; plant-based foods; and healthy fats, like those found in olive oil and nuts.
2. Keep your weight in check
Obesity is a risk factor for gout, so the more healthily you eat and get exercise every day, the better your chances of keeping a healthy weight.
3. Have a medication moment with your doctor
Go over the medications you’re on with your doctor to make sure you’re not taking anything that increases gout risk and uric acid levels. Diuretics, certain blood pressure medications, and a medicine commonly used to treat Parkinson’s disease all raise your risk for gout.
4. Don’t ignore sleep apnea
Some evidence indicates that untreated sleep apnea increases your chances for gout. If you suspect you have sleep apnea and the irregular breathing patterns it causes while you sleep, get it treated.
5. Stay well-hydrated
The simple act of drinking plenty of water supports your kidneys so they can work as efficiently as possible to get rid of uric acid so buildup doesn’t occur.
In addition to taking these steps, your doctor may recommend taking anti-inflammatory medication for the pain of a gout flare-up or steroid medications for swelling. They may also advise you to get a steroid shot in your painful joint.
Prescription medications can also help to lower the level of uric acid in your blood. Another medication, colchicine, goes right to your affected joint to zap the acid crystals that are causing the symptoms in your unhappy joint.
It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t let gout go untreated, as the damage it does when it’s severe can’t be reversed and the pain can become chronic.
The Florida Foot & Ankle Centers team is committed to ending your gout pain, inflammation, and movement limitations. Call us to set up a consultation at the office that’s closest to you — in Royal Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Palm Beach Gardens, or Belle Glade, Florida — or request an appointment online.