If gout symptoms such as a painful, burning, red or swollen big toe wakes you up at night, you’ll be seeking immediate gout treatment. But why did you develop this condition and how can you keep flares from returning after this round of treatment? Keep reading to find out.

Understanding Gout A foot with redness and pain around the big toe joint

Gout is a form of arthritis that is very different from osteoarthritis. Instead of becoming progressively worse, gout attacks in flares. And those flares are the result of uric acid crystal that form around your joints, leading to the most common gout symptom: excruciating pain in your swollen big toe!

Now, while that’s often the first—and most common symptom—you may also notice intense joint pain in areas other than your toe, including your elbows, ankles, knees, fingers and wrists.

About that pain: even if you don’t seek immediate gout treatment, it will lessen after about 12 hours. However, without intervention, discomfort could linger for weeks. And, the more flares you’ve had, the longer it will take for each new one to resolve on its own. Additionally, unless you seek gout treatment, an attack could lead to limits on your joint range of motion. As such, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as symptoms appear. Or, better yet, try to understand why gout flares happen, so you can prevent them from becoming a problem in the first place.

Gout Symptoms: What are the Causes?

We’ve mentioned that gout flares up when uric acid crystals form around your joints. But why you’re your body start forming crystals? Well, several factors combine in order to cause problems.

First, diet plays a role in gout flares. You see, as your body breaks protein down into purines, it produces uric acid. However, if you choose a protein that’s naturally high in purines—including steak, liver, and sea food—uric acid production could go into overdrive. And food isn’t all you have to worry about. In fact, alcoholic beverages such as beer or fructose rich juices could both contribute to a new gout flare.

Now, because uric acid has to be highly concentrated in your blood for crystals to form, drinking plenty of water can help prevent a gout flare. On the other hand, if you’re dehydrated, you’re going to be more vulnerable to flares, and you’re more likely to develop gout symptoms.

Family history, along with gender, can increase your gout risk, as men, particularly those between the ages of 30 and 50, are more often affected than women. Plus, any surgery or injury that affected your joints could make you more vulnerable to gout (and other forms of arthritis.)  So, after bunion or hammertoe surgery, we’ll always talk to you about arthritis prevention as part of your recovery.

Finally, if you carry extra weight, or take certain medications, you’re also at higher risk for gout attacks. You see, when you’re overweight, your body will naturally produce higher uric acid levels. At the same time, your kidneys function at less optimal levels, so the uric acid won’t filter out as efficiently. As such, acidic concentrations rise quickly, making crystal formation more likely. Similarly, medications for hypertension, daily aspirin doses or even diuretics can increase your risk for gout attacks.

Getting a Gout Diagnosis

Most cases of gout are diagnoses clinically, when you come into the office with your painful big toe. However, if you come in after the initial period of intense pain, diagnosis may not be as simple. In that case, we may need to draw fluid from the big toe joint; if we see crystals under a microscope, then we’ll know it’s gout. Finally, blood tests may help us determine the level of uric acid in your blood, in order to come up with an appropriate treatment plan.

Non-Surgical Gout Treatment in Powder Springs GA

In our Powder Springs podiatry practice, initial gout treatment usually involves pain medication, such as Advil or Motrin. If the condition is more serious, you may need prescription level Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories. Steroid pills or injections could help with the inflammation. Finally, medications such as Colchicine specifically target gout pain. However, this prescription can also lead to unpleasant side-effects, so it’s usually a last resort.  

After the initial pain resolves, we’ll have to work on preventing future gout flares. While not everyone will need interventions between attacks, anyone who’s had more than two attacks of gout in a year should consider prescriptions of Uloric or Allopurinol, both of which help your body flush uric acid out of the body. As such, they can help prevent gout attacks. But, without making changes to your lifestyle, these medications alone cannot fully protect you against gout flares.

Preventing Flares with Lifestyle Changes

Even if you don’t need medications to prevent gout attacks, you will need to address some of the lifestyle factors that increase your risk for this form of arthritis. One place to start is by limiting the amount of juice or alcohol you consume. Next, increase your daily water intake. And limit or avoid purine-rich foods such as organ and red meat, as well as shell fish.

At the same time, if you’re carrying extra weight, make efforts to get back to a healthy place. By doing so, you will reduce your risk for gout attacks. Plus, whatever weight you’re at, regular exercise should be part of your routine. As part of a healthy lifestyle, it can help keep all your organs working optimally, helving prevent gout symptoms and other health concerns.

Seeking Gout Treatment and Prevention

Are you in the middle of a painful flare? Contact us immediately. Dr. Alvin Cowans will get you in for an immediate appointment, and relieve your pain effectively.

After that initial relief, we’ll sit down and talk about your risk for future gout flares. Together, we’ll come up with a gout treatment plan that will help you avoid  future flares, and keep you from rushing in for emergency appointments down the road!