When Gout Attacks: Managing the Pain

Painful gout

Gout is one of the most unpleasant conditions we see in our office, for two reasons: (1) it hurts, and (2) you usually don’t see it coming. Searing pain, usually near the big toe, hits you suddenly and without warning, often in the middle of the night.

The good news is that gout attack flare-ups are fundamentally self-limiting—even if you do nothing, the pain in your toe will subside in time (usually about 4-12 hours during the acute stage). However, we doubt that’ll be much consolation when you’re howling in pain.

While you have little choice but to “ride it out,” there are a few steps you can take to limit your discomfort as much as possible during the most painful phase. Here are our top suggestions:

  • Stay in bed and elevate your foot above heart level with pillows. Rest as much as you can.
  • Take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) if you have been approved to use them. One exception: do not take aspirin, which works differently from other NSAIDs and can make your symptoms worse.
  • Keep your foot uncovered. Your toe and feet can be so swollen and sensitive that even the weight of a bedsheet or rub of a sock is painful.
  • Apply an ice pack (or a bag of frozen veggies wrapped in a dish cloth) to the area to help with swelling. You can do this several times per day, but never more than 20-30 minutes at a time.
  • Drink lots of water. Gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid crystals in your joints; water helps your body flush them out.
  • Call our office as soon as you are able, especially if this is your first attack. A fluid test is a simple way for us to confirm a gout diagnosis, and depending on your condition we may recommend a corticosteroid injection (to help you manage current pain) or prescribe other medications (both to help control pain during an attack and prevent future ones).

Gout can be a painful nuisance, but with a little help from medications, dietary modifications, and lifestyle improvements, it is very controllable. Dr. Keith McSpadden and the staff at North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute can help you get there. To schedule an appointment in Round Rock or Cedar Park, TX, contact us online or give us a call at 512-593-2949.

Posted on September 23, 2015 and filed under General.