Gout is a complex form of arthritis that is characterized by the sudden onset of a very painful, red, swollen joint most commonly the big toe joint but can occur in any foot joint or ankle. This is referred to as a gouty attack. These attacks are caused by the buildup of uric acid in the body, either due to under excretion by the kidneys or overproduction. This buildup of uric acid leads to the formation and deposition of uric acid crystals in the joint causing excruciating pain and swelling.
Gout has been documented as far back as 2600 BC, where it was referred to as the “Disease of King’s”. It got this name because of its unique triggers. Gouty attacks once thought to be brought on by the consumption of certain food, including some fish and meats as well as alcohol.
We know today however, that gout can affect anyone. That being said, it most commonly afflicts men and has strong links to obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, alcohol use and diabetes. Women are affected much less, and typically only after menopause. A very common cause of gout today is diuretics or water pills and other medications that affect kidney function.
Gout is diagnosed by taking a sample of the fluid from the joint and looking for the uric acid crystals under a microscope. Since gout can mimic other forms of arthritis, it is important to get the correct diagnosis and begin treatment immediately.
Thankfully, gout can be easily managed with the help of pharmaceuticals and lifestyle modification. Medications can be prescribed by your doctor and taken to control both chronic gout and acute attacks. These will decrease the severity and frequency of the disease. Treating the underlying risk factors for gout (e.g. obesity, high cholesterol, etc.) is just as important as treating the symptoms of the attack. Lifestyle modifications, such as diet and exercise should be included in the treatment plan for best outcome.
If you think you or a family member may be suffering from attacks of gouty arthritis consider making an appointment with Dr. Jay C. Larson at Sole Foot and Ankle Specialists in Glendale, Arizona. We want to get you back on your feet as soon as possible!