Diagram of gout in joint of a big toe

Gout prevention and treatment

In Conditions, Foot Facts, Services by Alnoor Ladhani, Chiropodist

Diagram of gout in joint of a big toeGout is a painful arthritic condition that usually affects the joint of the big toe.  The Greek physician Hippocrates called gout “unwalkable disease”.

Gout is widely thought to be hereditary and is experienced by men more often than women.  In the ancient days of Hippocrates, it was often associated with the upper class more than the working class.  This might be explained by the links modern medicine has found between gout and higher levels of purine in the diet.  Purine is found in rich foods such as red meat, lobster, shell fish and red wine.

The most noticeable symptom of gout is sudden and severe pain in the joints, often in the big toe.  Other symptoms include redness and tenderness.

Gout occurs when uric acid forms sharp crystals in the tissues and fluids within the body.  These same uric acid crystals can form in the kidneys, which can cause kidney stones.  The uric acid can also form as a chalky substance called tophi which causes lumps under the skin around the joints.

Over a long period of time, untreated gout can result in permanent damage to the joints and to the kidneys.  Most sufferers of gout seek treatment long before this occurs due to the pain the gout causes them.

Risk factors associated with gout

Family history is a common risk factor for developing gout.  Also, age and gender can play a role since men produce more uric acid than women.  For women with other risk factors, be aware that your uric acid levels will increase after menopause.

While we have no control over family history, age, or gender, there are other risk factors that play a role in the development of gout that are within our control.

You can add gout to the long list of health problems associated with being overweight.  Excess weight can contribute to higher levels of uric acid in the body.  Since being overweight can also contribute to other conditions and diseases that can lead to gout, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, losing those extra pounds can reduce your risk for gout and other serious health issues at the same time.

Other health conditions that can increase your chance of developing gout are hypothyroidism and any condition that decreases your kidney function, which will also reduce your body’s ability to eliminate excess uric acid.  Also, some medications can increase the levels of uric acid in the body.  Some examples are diuretics and drugs that contain salicylate.

Another risk factor we can control is our diet.  Eating a lot of high-purine foods such as red meat, lobster, shell fish, and red wine can increase the risk of developing gout.  Also, drinking alcohol reduces your body’s ability to get rid of uric acid.

Some specific tips for preventing future gout attacks or for reducing your risk of developing gout in the first place are:

  • drink 2-4 litres of fluid a day (water is an excellent choice);
  • avoid red wine and alcohol in general;
  • maintain a healthy body weight;
  • limit shell fish, meat, and poultry and eat a balanced diet.

How is gout treated and how can a chiropodist help?

Gout is usually treated with medication to calm flare ups and prevent future attacks and related complications.  However, the pain and discomfort will likely still be there without certain other treatments that a chiropodist/podiatrist can provide.

We can provide orthoses to fit inside your footwear and help redistribute pressure from the affected joint.  We can also prescribe custom shoes that provide the right cushioning or we can provide protective shields for your toes.

If you are experiencing the painful affects of gout, please give Step by Step Professional Family Foot Care a call today to find out how we can help.  Don’t suffer alone – work with us to find a pain-management strategy that works for you!