What comes to mind when you hear the word “gout?”
Many people think gout is something only elderly people get – if they even know what it is!
The truth is, the people who typically suffer from gout are actually in their 40’s and 50’s – especially if they’re male. So gout is a lot more common and affects more people than most think.
Here, we’ll talk about gout, including how it develops, its symptoms, and how you can treat it.
What Is Gout?
Gout is actually a form of arthritis that happens when our bodies have an overabundance of uric acid crystals. Uric acid is a normal substance in our body, but when it crystallizes and becomes more than our body can handle, the crystals collect in your body’s joints – especially your big toe.
Symptoms of Gout
Since gout is a form of arthritis, it usually involves pain, swelling, tenderness, and redness. This condition can strike quickly, leaving you in pain and unable to move as well as you did before. People usually find out they have gout after they go to the doctor complaining of intense pain in their big toe and their other joints.
You may be woken up in the middle of the night by intolerable pain in your foot. You may also notice significant swelling in your feet and may notice that your big toe is red and painful to the touch.
Even after the initial flare up is gone, you may have ongoing tenderness and discomfort, often for weeks after the episode is over. You’ll also notice that it’s harder to move and walk, particularly if your feet are affected.
Who’s at Risk for Gout?
Gout can strike anyone, but as we said above, it typically hits men in their 40’s and 50’s. You’re at an increased risk of developing gout if you have any of the following risk factors:
- A family history of gout
- A diet with excessive consumption of alcohol, fruit sugar (such as fruit juices and carbonated beverages), meat, and seafood
- Medications for hypertension
- High blood pressure
- Chronic conditions like diabetes and heart/kidney diseases
- Recent surgery or trauma
How Is Gout Treated?
The main treatment option for gout is to get on medication designed to both treat acute attacks and help lower the chance of future attacks. You can take over-the-counter medications like NSAIDs to supplement, or your doctor may prescribe something stronger. If you can’t take NSAIDs, doctors usually prescribe corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.
If you endure multiple gout attacks a year, you can take medication to lower the amount of uric acid your body produces, or take meds that help your body remove uric acid more efficiently. These are called xanthine oxidase inhibitors (XOIs) and uricosurics.
Reducing Risk of Gout
There are some things you can do to reduce your risk of gout and increase the chances you won’t come down with this condition. These include:
- Drinking fluids often
- Limiting alcohol
- Staying at a healthy weight
- Limiting how much meat, poultry, and fish you eat
- Consuming more low-fat dairy products
Your doctor can give you more specific advice for your particular condition and circumstances, so talk to him or her and let them come up with a tailored treatment and prevention plan.
Gout is something that can be treated and mitigated. If you suffer from gout, there are things you can do to help decrease the severity of it and make it go away altogether. And if you have risk factors for gout, you can guard yourself against its effects.
If you notice pain in your foot, your podiatrist can help you figure out what’s wrong. It could be something else, or it could be gout, but either way, calling your podiatrist is something you should do if you notice pain in any part of your foot, no matter what is causing it. They can help you come up with the best course of action no matter what the source of the pain may be.