An attack of gout can occur suddenly, often waking you up in the middle of the night with the sensation that your joint is on fire. Gout is a form of arthritic condition that is very painful, that occurs as a result of the build-up of uric acid in the body and the joint fluid.
This build-up typically happens when the body has trouble processing purines which is a substance that are found in the food we eat, or in some cases, when the body produces too much uric acid.
The tendency to accumulate uric acid is often hereditary. Environmental factors, such as diet, actually trigger the disease.
What are the signs and symptoms?
- It usually starts with a sudden onset of intense pain, in one or more joints, such as the big toe joint. If you have gout, you will likely have swelling and redness and pain in the joint of your big toe. Weightbearing activities such as walking can worsen the pain.
- Many people often say they first notice pain in the middle of the night or upon arising in the morning.
- Our Podiatrists will closely examine the joint to look for the classic signs of gout. This combined with the personal and family history of the person will usually give an accurate diagnosis.
- Blood tests and X-rays often are performed to check for uric acid levels and also to examine the bones and joints to rule out abnormal changes associated with gout.
- Treatment starts with establishing the correct diagnosis. Oral anti-inflammatory medications are often used to manage the acute attack. If the gout attack is in the toe, it will help to elevate the foot, avoid standing and walking, and wear only a loose slipper until the individual can be seen by a Podiatrist.
- If gout attacks continue despite medical treatment or excessive deposits of gouty crystals exist within a joint, or if arthritis causes continual discomfort, surgical treatment may be necessary to remove the crystals (tophi) and repair the joint.
Learning what increases the risk of gout will help in prevention. Below are some points to remember:
- Certain foods that are high in purines can increase uric acid levels and thus bring on an acute attack of gout. So avoid foods that are high in purines such as red meats, shellfish, beer, red wine and salt.
- Medications such as diuretics (water pills) that are often used to control high blood pressure or reduce swelling, also may cause an acute attack of gout.
- Stress, infection and trauma also are possible causes.
- Drinking plenty of water each day, eating an appropriate diet and evaluating current medications will reduce the likelihood of an attack or lessen the severity should it occur.
- Regular examinations by a podiatrist also will reduce the potential for an attack as we are trained in identifying a gouty foot and help you to get back on track!
If you or someone you know are experiencing pain from a gout attack then we would love to help. You can book online or call our help team on (03) 9711 7562 to make an appointment.