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  • Writer's pictureDr. Ndidi Ufondu, DPM

Gout: What You Need to Know About This Painful Condition

Gout is a type of arthritis that causes sudden and severe attacks of pain, swelling, and inflammation in the joints. It usually affects the big toe, but it can also affect other joints such as the ankle, knee, wrist, or elbow. Gout is caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood, which form crystals that deposit in the joints and trigger inflammation. Uric acid is a waste product that is normally dissolved in the blood and excreted by the kidneys. However, some people have too much uric acid in their blood, either because they produce too much or because they don't eliminate enough. This can lead to a condition called hyperuricemia, which increases the risk of gout.


Gout is more common in men than women, and it tends to run in families. It can affect anyone at any age, but it usually develops in middle age or later. Gout can be triggered by various factors, such as diet, lifestyle, medications and other health conditions. In this article, we will discuss some of the common causes and risk factors of gout, and how you can prevent or manage this condition.





Diet


One of the main causes of gout is eating foods that are high in purines, which are substances found in animal proteins such as meat, seafood, organ meats and some dairy products. Purines are broken down into uric acid in the body, and if you consume too much of them, you may increase your uric acid levels and your risk of gout. Some foods that are high in purines include:

  1. Red meat (beef, lamb, pork)

  2. Organ meats (liver, kidney, heart)

  3. Seafood (shellfish, anchovies, sardines, herring, mackerel)

  4. Beer and other alcoholic beverages

  5. Sugary drinks and foods (soda, juice, candy, pastries)


To prevent or reduce gout attacks, you should limit or avoid these foods and drinks, and instead opt for low-purine foods such as:


  1. Fruits and vegetables

  2. Whole grains

  3. Low-fat dairy products

  4. Eggs

  5. Nuts and seeds

  6. Lean poultry (chicken, turkey)

  7. Water and other non-alcoholic fluids


You should also drink plenty of water to help flush out excess uric acid from your body and prevent dehydration, which can worsen gout symptoms.


Eating healthy foods reduces the risk of Gout
Eating healthy foods reduces the risk of Gout

Lifestyle


Another factor that can contribute to gout is your lifestyle. Some habits that can increase your risk of gout include:

  1. Being overweight or obese: Excess weight puts more pressure on your joints and increases your body's production of uric acid. Losing weight can help lower your uric acid levels and reduce your risk of gout.

  2. Leading a sedentary lifestyle: Lack of physical activity can also increase your uric acid levels and make you more prone to gout. Regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, improve your blood circulation and reduce inflammation.

  3. Smoking: Smoking can impair your kidney function and make it harder for your body to eliminate uric acid. Quitting smoking can improve your overall health and lower your risk of gout.

  4. Stress: Stress can trigger or worsen gout attacks by increasing your blood pressure and inflammation. Managing stress can help you cope better with gout and improve your quality of life.


exercise regularly to reduce overweight which is a risk factor of Gouts
Exercise regularly to reduce overweight which is a risk factor of Gouts

Medications


Some medications that are used to treat other health conditions can also cause or aggravate gout by increasing your uric acid levels or interfering with its excretion. Some examples of these medications include:

  1. Diuretics (water pills) that are used to treat high blood pressure or edema (fluid retention). These drugs can reduce the amount of water in your body and make your urine more concentrated, which can increase your uric acid levels.

  2. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that are used to relieve pain or inflammation. These drugs can also reduce the amount of uric acid that is excreted by the kidneys.

  3. Niacin (vitamin B3) that is used to lower cholesterol or treat niacin deficiency. This vitamin can also increase the production of uric acid in the body.

  4. Cyclosporine that is used to prevent organ rejection after a transplant or treat autoimmune diseases. This drug can impair kidney function and increase uric acid levels.


If you are taking any of these medications and have gout or are at risk of developing it, you should consult with your doctor about possible alternatives or adjustments to your dosage. You should never stop taking any prescribed medication without your doctor's approval.


Other Health Conditions


Some health conditions that affect your metabolism or kidney function can also increase your risk of gout by affecting your uric acid levels. Some examples of these conditions include:

  1. Diabetes: Diabetes is a condition that affects how your body uses glucose (sugar) for energy. People with diabetes may have high levels of glucose and insulin in their blood, which can increase the production of uric acid and reduce its excretion.

  2. Kidney disease: Kidney disease is a condition that affects how your kidneys filter waste and fluids from your blood. People with kidney disease may have impaired kidney function and reduced ability to eliminate uric acid from their body.

  3. Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is a condition that affects how your thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate your metabolism. People with hypothyroidism may have low levels of thyroid hormones, which can slow down their metabolism and increase their uric acid levels.

  4. Psoriasis: Psoriasis is a condition that affects how your skin cells grow and shed. People with psoriasis may have high levels of skin cells that contain purines, which can increase their uric acid levels when they break down.


If you have any of these conditions and have gout or are at risk of developing it, you should work with your doctor to manage your underlying condition and prevent or reduce gout attacks.




Symptoms of Gout


Gout can be very painful and debilitating, affecting your quality of life and your ability to perform daily activities. It can also lead to complications such as joint damage, kidney stones, or infections. Therefore, it is important to seek medical attention if you have symptoms of gout, such as:

  1. Intense pain in one or more joints, especially at night or in the early morning.

  2. Swelling, redness, warmth, and tenderness in the affected joint.

  3. Fever and chills.

  4. Difficulty moving or walking.


Your doctor will diagnose gout based on your symptoms, medical history, physical examination, and blood tests. They may also take a sample of fluid from your joint to look for uric acid crystals under a microscope. The diagnosis of gout can be confirmed if uric acid crystals are found in the joint fluid.


Gout is not a life-threatening condition, but it can cause significant pain and disability if left untreated. Therefore, it is important to follow your doctor's advice and take your medications as prescribed. You should also monitor your symptoms and report any changes or worsening to your doctor.


At New Horizon Foot and Ankle Specialists LLC, we are committed to providing you with comprehensive podiatric care for all your foot and ankle problems. We have a team of experienced and qualified podiatrists who can diagnose and treat various conditions affecting your feet and ankles, including gout. We also offer education and counseling on how to prevent and manage gout and other podiatric issues.


If you suffer from gout or have any questions or concerns about your foot health, please contact us today to schedule an appointment. We are here to help you achieve optimal foot and ankle health and wellness.


Did you know?

Did you know that one of the celebrities who has suffered from gout is Jared Leto? The actor and singer revealed in 2010 that he developed gout after gaining 67 pounds for his role in the movie Chapter 27. He said that he had to use a wheelchair because of the pain and swelling in his feet. He also said that he had to take medication to lower his uric acid levels and that he lost the weight by fasting and hiking. He described gout as "the most painful thing" he had ever experienced.



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