Picture a piece of rough sand paper. Those thick grains on the paper do wonders for smoothing down surfaces. As they grind against wood or even stone, the friction they create shaves down the roughness, leaving the surface smooth. For wood and stone, this can be helpful—which is why people do it. When the surface that’s being ground down is the protective layer in a joint, however, you end up in pain. Gout flare-ups act like rough sandpaper in the spaces between bones, scraping the protective layers and causing all sorts of damage.
Gouty Crystals and Where They Come From
Gout is an unusual type of arthritis. Like other kinds of joint damage, it ruins the tissues and protective layers between two joints, creates inflammation and swelling, and tends to get worse unless it’s treated. Unlike any other kind of joint inflammation, however, gouty arthritis is the result of too much uric acid in the blood crystalizing and settling in your joint cavities.
Uric acid is a substance your body produces when it breaks down chemicals called purines. Now, normal and even high levels of uric acid in your blood are not necessarily a problem. The issue arises when the excess uric acid collects together and hardens into small crystals. These crystals have sharp, pointed, needle-like ends. They tend to collect in joint spaces, between where two bones meet. There the sharp ends scrape and scratch against the joint tissues, causing damage. This is most common in the big toe, though any joint could theoretically develop the condition.
The Connection between Gout and Food
The that crystalizes is made when your body breaks down particular chemicals called purines. These substances are naturally found in food—though they can be higher in some foods than others. Red meat, some seafood, alcoholic drinks, and excess sugar all have high levels of purines. Eating or drinking too much of these may be a triggering factor in a gout flare-up.
Living with Gouty Arthritis
Unfortunately, gout isn’t something that can be cured. That doesn’t mean it’s not treatable, however. The right care at the right time can slow down and even stop an attack. Then you have to set about managing the condition for the long term. This means being intentional about your feet health. Our team at Carolina Podiatry Group will need to examine your lower limbs to accurately diagnose the problem and rule out look-alikes. Then we can help you manage your lower limbs.
Gout attacks will need to be treated immediately. Typically the pain, redness, swelling, stiffness, and sensitivity to touch that characterizes the problem begins very suddenly in the big toe. Often this happens at night. As soon as you can, however, you should seek help. Treating the condition within the first day of the flare-up allows our team to cut the pain shorter than it might otherwise be.
Usually this means medication. Medicines to help control the uric acid in your blood will prevent attacks and alleviate pain. Other lifestyle changes may help as well. Avoid drinking alcohol and limit the amount of high-purine foods you consume. Exercising regularly and potentially losing weight may also decrease your risk for an attack.Gout is a chronic problem, so it never completely goes away. It can, however, be controlled. Don’t let the condition take over your lower limbs. It will get worse with time. Instead, let our team at Carolina Podiatry Group help you take care of the problem right away. Use our website to make an appointment with us; you can also call one of our South Carolina locations: (803) 285-1411 for our Lancaster office, or (803) 548-FEET for our Fort Mill office.