Living with Gout



Gout, a complex form of arthritis, is perhaps one of the more unpleasant chronic conditions we regularly treat at North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute, at least in terms of the pain factor. The condition is characterized by spikes of pain that are sudden and extreme, lasting for hours. Fortunately, the disease is one that can be managed and treated, and providing lasting relief and prevention for long-term, chronic cases is one of the more satisfying services we provide.

Ouch! My Toe!

When gout flares up, it hits quickly, and it hits hard. You may be sleeping comfortably in the middle of the night, only to be awoken by severe pain, tenderness, and swelling. The primary target is usually the big toe, although other joints can be affected as well or instead.

Intense pain typically lasts anywhere from 4 to 12 hours, although it can be shorter or longer. Lingering discomfort can follow for days or even weeks. Your joints may also become quite stiff, with range of motion severely restricted.

Over time, multiple attacks can cause permanent damage to the joint. It may also lead to build-up of urate deposits throughout the body, as well as formation of kidney stones.

What Causes These Attacks

This form of arthritis is caused by crystalline deposits of uric acid that build up in your joint. When uric acid levels in your bloodstream are high, your risk of an attack is magnified.

Uric acid is a very common and very normal byproduct when your body breaks down or digests purines, a class of organic compounds produced naturally by your body and also found in many foods. Under normal circumstances your kidney filters out excess uric acid, but if your body is producing more of it than your kidneys can remove, your levels increase—as does your risk of a flare-up.

So what might cause a uric acid overload? There could be many possible explanations. Eating too many high-purine foods is a common one, but not the only. Medical conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, kidney disease, or diabetes, as well as certain medications, can contribute by either increasing uric acid production, reducing the efficiency of your kidneys, or both.

Managing Gout with Medicine

A variety of medications exist to help you manage pain, prevent future attacks, and minimize the risks of future complications. These come in several different classes, and are chosen based on your needs and medical tolerances. There are also medications can help you either block uric acid production or remove more of it from your bloodstream by improving kidney function.

Each medication has strengths and weaknesses, including certain side effects. Your doctor can help you figure out which medications will give you the best results with the fewest drawbacks.

Managing Gout through Diet and Lifestyle

Although medications are highly recommended for those with chronic problems, in many cases you have significant power to prevent future flare-ups by living a healthy lifestyle and watching what you eat.

Food and drink that typically contains high levels of purines include meat and fish (especially red, organ, and game meats), alcohol (especially beer), sugary sweets and white bread, and high-fat dairy. Try to eliminate or limit your intake of these foods, substituting low-purine alternatives. We can help you draw up a diet plan if you need help.

If you have any underlying conditions, such as obesity or high blood pressure, then managing them successfully will help you prevent gout attacks, too. Staying at a healthy weight is very important in terms of both reducing uric acid production and improving kidney function.

Help for Foot Pain in Austin, TX

If you’ve ever had even one attack you suspect might have been related to gout, don’t wait—seek help from Dr. Keith McSpadden. Although there’s no “cure” for the disease, it can be managed successfully with a little help and careful planning; there’s no reason to repeatedly suffer and risk severe complications. To schedule an appointment at North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute, call now at 512-593-2949.