Gout: Understanding the Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Gout is a type of metabolic arthritis that happens when the body can’t get rid of excess uric acid, leading to its build-up and crystallization in the joints. This results in severe inflammation, pain, and swelling, which if left untreated, can cause a more severe form known as gouty arthritis. Primarily affecting joints in the lower half of the body, such as the big toe, knees, ankles, and feet, gout is a painful and debilitating condition that can significantly disrupt a patient’s quality of life.

What are the Causes of Gout?

Several factors can cause gout, with the most common being a buildup of uric acid in the body. Uric acid is formed when the body breaks down purines, organic chemical compounds present in food and various tissues and cells throughout the body. Normally, uric acid is expelled through urine. But if the body can’t get rid of all the uric acid, it can form crystals in the affected joints. Factors that contribute to the build-up of uric acid and subsequent gout include high blood pressure, organ transplants, post-menopausal women, diabetes, kidney diseases, a diet high in foods containing purines, as well as alcohol and dehydration. Age also increases the risk of gout, with men over 40 being more susceptible.

What are the Symptoms of Gout?

Gout typically affects one joint at a time, and most often the big toe, although it can also affect the ankles, knees, and joints in the feet. Symptoms usually come on rapidly, and the pain can be excruciating, causing swelling, redness, heat, and difficulty when walking. Symptoms can last for a few days, with flare-ups happening at night, and time in between can last months or even years. Left untreated, the continuous build-up of uric acid crystals can lead to the development of tophi, lumps under the skin that can erode bone and cartilage.

Diagnosing and Treating Gout

Diagnosing gout can be difficult because its symptoms overlap with other forms of arthritis or inflammation. Often, a podiatrist will ask a series of relevant questions regarding your lifestyle, medical history, and dietary choices to determine if testing is necessary. The diagnosis may involve a physical examination of the affected joint/s, imaging tests, and blood or synovial fluid tests to determine the uric acid levels.

Although there is no cure for gout, patients can manage the condition and reduce the risk of flare-ups by making certain lifestyle changes and adopting an appropriate treatment plan. This plan may include NSAIDs or steroid injections for pain relief, dietary adjustments that avoid purine-rich foods, medications such as diuretics and uricosurics; that can reduce uric acid levels, as well as increased physical activity levels to maintain healthy kidney and heart function.

Seeing a podiatrist who specializes in the treatment of gout to create an individualized plan to manage gout can help to enhance its effectiveness. Dr. Gilbert Huang, DPM. offers comprehensive care for gout sufferers, utilizing advanced diagnostic tools to create bespoke treatment plans that effectively manage the condition and improve overall health.

In conclusion, gout is a painful and debilitating condition that can greatly affect a patient’s quality of life. Age, diet, medical history, and other factors contribute to the build-up of uric acid, leading to its crystallization in the joints, causing inflammation and extensive pain. While there is no cure, several effective treatments can manage gout and reduce the risk of flare-ups. Contact a qualified podiatrist to help manage the condition and get relief from the pain and discomfort.