Common Gout Symptoms and How to Prevent Them

If you have gout, you know how painful it can be. Gout is a condition in which uric acid crystals build up in the joints, which then causes painful inflammation.

Board-certified podiatrist J. Adrian Wright, DPM, MS, of Quantum Foot and Ankle Group, PC in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, understands the problems associated with gout. In this blog, he explains what gout is, how it can be treated, and how it can be prevented.

Causes and symptoms of gout

Your body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines, which are substances found naturally in your body and in some foods. Normally, your kidneys flush out uric acid from your system. However, if uric acid production increases, or if the kidneys can’t remove it effectively enough, it can build up and form into needle-like crystals in your joints.

The first symptoms of a gout attack are usually intense episodes of pain and swelling within a single joint. Half of first-time attacks happen in the big toe, but any joint can be involved. Other common joints are the knees, ankles, elbows, wrists, and fingers.

Gout symptoms almost always occur suddenly, and they often strike at night. Symptoms can include:

A number of foods and medications can raise your body’s uric acid levels and lead to gout attacks. These include:

Over time, increased uric acid levels can lead to urate crystal deposits in and around the joints. The crystals can attract white blood cells, leading to inflammation, severe pain, and chronic arthritis. These crystals can also build up in the urinary tract, which can cause kidney stones.

Diagnosing gout

Diagnosing gout can be tricky, as the symptoms can be similar to other forms of arthritis. Dr. Wright may use one or more of the following tests to help him diagnose your condition:

Joint fluid test

This test uses a needle to draw fluid from the affected joint. Crystals may be visible under a microscope.

Blood test

This test measures levels of uric acid and creatinine. Do know that some people can have high levels of these substances but no symptoms and vice versa.

X-rays

This test can reveal joint damage and rule out other causes of joint inflammation.

Ultrasound

This test can detect urate crystals in a joint or a tophus, which is a lump under the skin.

Treating gout

Gout attacks are usually treated with medication, which can include:

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

These medications — either over-the-counter or prescription  — can help relieve symptoms.

Colchicine

This medication can reduce gout pain. However, it can cause side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Corticosteroids

This medication can control gout inflammation and pain. It can be taken in pill or injectable form, and it’s more often given to people who can’t take either NSAIDs or colchicine.

Dr. Wright may also prescribe medication to block uric acid production and/or medication to improve uric acid removal.

Preventing gout

During symptom-free periods, Dr. Wright may suggest doing the following to prevent gout from returning:

If you’re experiencing sudden joint pain, especially in your big toe, it may be gout. To get a proper diagnosis and the necessary treatment, book an appointment online or over the phone with Quantum Foot and Ankle Group, PC today.

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