Gout: Sudden Joint Attacks

Dr. Robert Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

Imagine walking around with sand in your shoes. Small as those sand grains are, they can rub against your feet and cause significant discomfort. Sometimes a buildup of small irritants can cause big pain. This is what happens inside your foot joints when you have gout.

A Joint Pain Sneak Attack

Gout is a type of arthritis that typically affects the first joint of the big toe, though it can potentially impact any of the joints in the feet. The condition is caused by a buildup of uric acid in the blood. Normally the acid is dissolved and expelled from the body as waste, but if there’s too much, some may stay floating in the bloodstream. The acid forms urate crystals, which settle in the spaces between two bones. These crystals are sharp, needle-like structures. When enough of them fill the joint cavity, they poke and grind against the cartilage covering the ends of your bones, damaging them.

The pain that this causes is typically quite sudden and often happens at night. You develop sharp, intense pain in the affected joint. Often the area around the joint appears red and swollen. Your foot may be tender and highly sensitive to touch. The discomfort is generally at its most intense for the first 12 to 24 hours, and then gradually subsides over a period of several days or weeks. Repeat attacks tend to be worse than previous ones.

Risks of Getting Jumped by Joint Pain

Sudden joint painThe older you are, the more likely you are to struggle with this condition. Men are more susceptible to it than women, too. However, your health and lifestyle play a role in its development. Gout tends to run in families and is influenced by your diet. Certain foods contain high levels of purines—proteins that produce uric acid when broken down. Alcohol, especially beer, has a particularly high purine content. Some medical conditions, like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and some heart disease may increase your risk for the problem as well.

Combatting the Pain

You’ll need to have the condition accurately diagnosed to treat it properly. Dr. Robert Parker and our staff will carefully examine the painful lower limb and use several tests to identify the specific problem. X-rays may show damage to the joints if the disorder has progressed enough or lasted a long time. Other imaging technologies may be more helpful for diagnosing it earlier. Once the problem has been identified, we can begin treatment to manage the pain.

Gout is a chronic problem, so it can’t be “cured.” However, conservative methods can alleviate discomfort and even prevent future attacks. Some medications may decrease the inflammation in the affected joint. The earlier you seek treatment when the pain hits, the more likely medication can control the issue and offer real relief. Ice the painful joint and keep your foot elevated to help with swelling. Make sure you drink plenty of water to help flush uric acid out of the blood stream. You may need to wear stiff shoes to stabilize the foot, and limit the painful motion in the affected joint during an attack. Orthotics can help with this as well.

Warding Off Attacks

Once the discomfort is under control, you can begin preventative measures. Certain medications can help control the uric acid in your blood, though they may not be helpful for everyone. Adjusting your diet so you limit high-purine foods and drinks can decrease the amount of the acid in your blood. You may need to lose weight or take medication to control other health conditions that contribute to the problem as well.

Gout is a painful problem that can suddenly debilitate you. You don’t have to suffer from attacks again and again, however. You can take steps to control the condition and live a healthy, pain-free life. Contact Parker Foot & Ankle in Houston, TX, and see how we can help you. Call (281) 497-2850 or send us an online request to receive more information or to make an appointment.