For many people, the word arthritis refers to a condition of stiff, painful joints experienced by elderly men and women and thought to develop naturally over time. There is certainly a grain of truth behind this in the case of osteoarthritis, but the disease actually comes in over 100 different forms. Each develops in a different manner and causes its own unique problems. In the case of gout, the condition is caused by a byproduct of food breakdown and can lead to intense pain.
Why Gout Develops
While other forms of this disease develop from wear-and-tear over time (osteoarthritis) or autoimmune issues (rheumatoid arthritis), gout is caused by the way your body breaks down certain foods. A natural byproduct of this process is uric acid. When your body either produces too much or cannot effectively flush the excess out, uric acid settles and builds up in your joints. Over time, it begins to crystallize. These uric crystals have sharp points that irritate the soft tissues surrounding the affected joints.
Gout symptoms almost always have a sudden onset and give little warning in advance. They often happen at night and include:
- Intense joint pain. The condition frequently affects the big toes metatarsophalangeal joint (where the toe meets the foot), which is where the sharp pain tends to be experienced. The severe pain can last anywhere from four to twelve hours after it starts.
- Lingering discomfort. Following the initial wave of intense pain, there will be a period of joint discomfort that can range anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks. This timeframe generally becomes longer with subsequent flares.
- Redness and inflammation. In addition to the pain and impaired range of motion, affected joints can become reddened, warm, tender, and swollen.
- Limited range of motion. As this arthritic condition progresses, there will be a decrease in joint mobility.
Gout Treatment Options
Treatment for this form of arthritis can be thought of in two different ways. First, there are lifestyle changes that can benefit the condition. When these are not enough, medication can be prescribed to provide additional help.
Lifestyle and home remedies are centered on dietary choices and exercise. Reducing your consumption of sweetened drinks (especially those sweetened by fructose) and alcoholic beverages is a great starting point. Additionally, limiting or eliminating certain foods that are high in purinesa natural substance that is metabolized into uric acidshould be a goal of your dietary plan. Organ meats, seafood, and red meat are all examples of high-purine foods.
Some medications are used to treat (and prevent) acute attacks. These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, colchicine, and corticosteroids. Others, including medications that block uric acid production or improve its removal, are intended to prevent gout complications.
Houston Foot Specialists can certainly provide care for this type of arthritis, but wed like to help you prevent the condition from developing in the first place. Here are some tips to reduce your risk:
- Limit the amounts of fish, poultry, and meat in your diet. These foods result in heightened levels of uric acid and can either trigger attacks or lead to an onset of the condition.
- Rely on low-fat dairy products to provide protein. Since you need to limit or avoid other protein sources, make sure that your diet includes plenty of low-fat yogurt, cheese, and milk.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Keeping your body properly hydrated will help to flush out excessive uric acid and prevent a buildup from happening in your big toe joints.
- Avoid (or at least limit) alcohol. We did just recommend drinking plenty of fluids, but it is in your best interest to limit or avoid alcoholic beverages. It is important to note that beer tends to be a major offender, so perhaps choose a different drink. If you have any questions, simply contact Aleisha Allen, DPM.
- Manage your weight. There are many health reasons for keeping your bodyweight in a healthy range, and you can add this one to that list.
Houstons First Choice for Comprehensive Foot Care
Our Houston office provides treatment for a wide range of conditions that affect the feet and ankles, including gout. If you, or any of your family members, are experiencing the painful symptoms that come with this form of arthritis, contact Aleisha Allen, DPM and her team at Houston Foot Specialists. Call us at (713) 467-8886 for more information about how we can help you. If you are ready to schedule an appointment, you can do so via our online form found here on our website.