Gout is a form of arthritis that happens when your body creates too much uric acid. This imbalance causes crystalline deposits to form in your joints or soft tissues. When this occurs, it can bring on an attack of sudden and extreme pain combined with swelling, redness and increased warmth to the skin or joint. Generally, gout will occur in the big toe or knee joint. However, gout may present itself on the tops of the foot, the heel and ankle joint. These attacks can sometimes last for weeks but even if it is sporadic, these attacks will happen repeatedly until gout is treated. Left untreated, gout can cause an infection in a joint which can become quite serious.
While the tendency to accumulate uric acid is linked to genetics, there are various other factors that put people at risk. These factors include: obesity, stress, diabetes, high blood pressure, chemotherapy, and specific vitamins and medications. Niacin (a vitamin also known as nicotinic acid), aspirin and diuretic medications have been known to alter the body’s ability to remove uric acid. While gout is commonly diagnosed in middle-aged men, younger men and women are also at risk. Consuming too much alcohol or eating foods with high levels of purine (a chemical compound found in food) – such as meat and fish, are also contributing factors that lead to an attack of gout.
After a general physical exam, your podiatrist may suggest that a sample of fluid be taken from your joint to look for uric acid crystals. A blood test may also be required to measure the amount of uric acid in your blood. Treatment methods will depend on those results. Less severe attacks of gout can be treated with a variety of prescription anti-inflammatory drugs. Sometimes it is necessary to immobilize the foot with use of crutches or a removable cast.
Regardless, the most important thing to remember is to see your podiatrist even if you are no longer experiencing any pain. Healthy Steps can help you decide what type of testing you may require and can debride gout tophi (gout stones), which will bring you some relief.