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Martin Foot & Ankle

Gout: Sudden Arthritis Attacks

You wouldn’t rub your hand on rough, splintering wood. The sharp fragments have too high a risk of painfully poking through your skin. Friction against rough or sharp objects has a way of wearing down, or potentially damaging, other surfaces. This is the problem with gout in your joints—the rough, scraping between two bones in a joint damages all the tissues involved and causes a lot of pain.

What Gout Actually Is

This condition is a complex type of arthritis that appears suddenly for a period of time, then flares up again periodically unless you take care of it. Like all other types of arthritis, it creates inflammation and damage between two bones. Unlike other kinds, however, its damage is the result of uric acid crystal build-up.

Your body breaks down and metabolizes proteins to use them. For a protein called purine, however, this produces something called uric acid. Normally your body filters the uric acid out of your blood and flushes it away as waste.

Sometimes, however, it builds up in the body and crystalizes. These tiny, sharp, needle-like crystals can then settle in the spaces of joints. As more and more crystals settle in a joint, they grind against the tissues there. Eventually this creates a sudden, severe flare-up of inflammation and pain. This can happen in any joint in your body, though the most common place is actually your big toe.

Experiencing a Gout Attack

Managing your gout attack

A sudden outbreak of gouty arthritis is called an “attack.” Your big toe—or possibly another jointed area in your foot, like your ankle or your heel—develops immediate and intense pain. Frequently this happens at night and without warning. The discomfort is usually most intense in the first 12-24 hours of an attack, though the pain will linger for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

The affected joint will appear red and swollen. Frequently it’s sensitive to even light touches. Your joint will stiffen and lose some range of motion for a while as the crystals grind inside it. In more advanced stages, you might develop lumpy deposits of uric acid called tophi just under the skin on your foot.

Eventually, the flare-up subsides and you feel better, but the damage to your joint tissues only gets worse with each subsequent attack.

Managing Your Gouty Arthritis

Unfortunately, this is a chronic condition without a cure—but this doesn’t mean there are no treatments. There are ways to minimize a flare-up, alleviate pain, and prevent future attacks. The key is getting the condition diagnosed and treated right away.

Our team at Martin Foot and Ankle will carefully examine your lower limbs. This may include some special tests to identify the disease. Once the condition has been accurately diagnosed, you can begin treatment.

Medication is the main factor for treating this condition. Particular medications can shorten and weaken a gout attack if you start taking it right away. To help manage the condition in general, you’ll probably need to take additional medications that help ward off attacks.

Lifestyle changes are also a huge part of managing this condition. Since uric acid comes from breaking down the purine proteins in your food, you’ll need to make some diet changes to decrease your risks for a flare-up. This includes limiting most meat, cutting back on sugar and alcohol, and exercising regularly. Drinking more water and losing weight are also important.

Team Up with Our Foot Experts for Relief

Gout is an uncomfortable, life-long problem, but it definitely doesn’t have to control your life or your activities. If you struggle with this condition, let Jeffrey A. Dunkerley, DPM at Martin Foot and Ankle help you. Don’t accept the pain and the joint damage. Contact our offices in York, Lancaster, or Hanover, PA, for an appointment right away. You can reach us through our online request form, or by calling (717) 757-3537.

Photo Credit: CC0 Public Domain