“My Toe Hurts!”: What You Need To Know About Gout

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Gout is an arthritic condition causing severe pain and other complications, and it’s more common today than you may think.

What Is Gout?

Gout is an condition also known as Gouty Arthritis, and it’s considered to be one of the most painful forms of arthritis.

Uric Acid is a naturally-occurring chemical in foods and alcohol, and is normally is processed by the kidneys, to be excreted in the urine as waste. Gout is caused by high levels of uric acid that aren’t properly processed by the kidneys, and rather than all of it flushing out of the body normally, it remains behind and crystallizes. These uric acid crystals may build up in the kidneys, causing kidney stones, but for many,  the crystals build up in the joints, causing extreme pain and burning. This occurrence is most commonly experienced in the feet, primarily in the big toe, but can affect anywhere including the hands, wrists, elbows, knees, ankles, or back.

Gout patients suffer from pain and inflammation caused by build up of crystallized Uric Acid in the joints

Doctors may do several tests to diagnose the disease, such as a urinalysis and blood tests to check uric acid levels, x-rays to look for build-ups or damage to the joints, or a synovial biopsy to analyze tissue. While these tests help doctors determine if a patient has met the criteria for gout, not everybody with high uric acid levels has it, even if they experience pain in the joints.

Causes and Risk Factors of Gout

  • Men are 4 times more likely than women to get gout, especially in their 40’s to 50’s.
  • Family history of gout contributes to almost 20% of cases.
  • Overeating, more prevalent with overweight or obese individuals.
  • Eating the wrong foods, such as those high in purines (such as red meat, organs, lentils/legumes, sardines, etc.).
  • History of excessive drinking, binge eating, or substance abuse.

Contributors

  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Lead exposure
  • Niacin supplements
  • Certain medications like diuretics
  • Chemotherapy
  • Crash diets
  • Injury or surgery
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney Disease
  • Anemia
  • Blood cancers like Leukemia

Symptoms of Gout

  • Pain that is usually localized to just one to three joints, usually the big toe, ankles, or knees.
  • The pain usually starts quickly, especially for first time sufferers. It commonly appears during the night, and can be throbbing, crushing, or excruciating.
  • The affected joint becomes very tender to the touch, even as much as a sheet brushing against it can cause incredible pain.
  • Area becomes very red and hot to the touch.
  • Sometimes a fever is present, but not always.
  • In extremely rare cases, build up can occur in the kidneys leading to kidney failure.

Attacks usually subside within a few days to weeks, getting progressively worse if attacks continue to return. Frequently appearing attacks could be classified as chronic gout, and a more aggressive treatment may be issued.

For patients who have been suffering from chronic gout for many years, sometimes Tophi appear. Tophi are crystals that build up so large, they can be seen as bumps under the skin, sometimes pushing their way through the surface and out of the body. This is even more painful, and can be almost disabling for some gout patients.

Additionally, chronic gout creates a plethora of problems to the joints themselves. Gout can damage the padding and the bone within the joints, leading to permanent damage, constant pain, and limited range of motion.

Treatments and Alternative Remedies for Gout

  • NSAIDS to reduce inflammation, sometimes needing prescription strength doses
  • Pain killers such as Vicodin or Oxycontin
  • Corticosteroid injections to the affected site to help relieve pain
  • Daily use of Allopurinol or Probenecid decrease uric acid levels in your blood
  • Herbal medicines
  • Relaxing techniques, simple stretching, or meditation
  • Cherries have been shown to help decrease gout outbreaks, and could cut the effects of an attack short
  • Taking it easy, elevating it, and not putting weight on the joint. If staying immobile isn’t an option, try a splint or cast
  • Wear good comfortable shoes

Preventative Care

  • Limit alcohol consumption, especially beer or other yeast brews
  • Avoid dairy, high-fat foods, meats high in iron (mostly red meats and organ parts), canned fish, legumes, and certain vegetables, or anything containing yeast, oils, or gravy
  • Keep carbohydrate intake up
  • Cautious weight loss, at a slow pace, so not to throw off the levels of uric acid, and then maintenance of weight
  • Avoid ice or heat to the area

 

No information in this article should be used to diagnose any condition. It is for informative purposes only. If you feel like you are experiencing a gout attack, consult a doctor.

 

Written By: Jenna McClure
Source: NCBI

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