Gout: Excruciating Arthritis Flares

Imagine getting sharp burrs stuck to your socks. If one gets between your sock and your shoe and presses into your foot, it can be quite uncomfortable. The sharp hooks and barbs poke the skin and make them difficult to eliminate. Your body can create something similar to tiny burrs inside your joints. These tiny crystals cause an excruciating condition known as gout.

A Different Kind of Arthritis

Gout is a type of arthritis, or inflammation and damage in your joints. It slowly breaks down the soft tissues that protect your bones, making it increasingly uncomfortable to use the affected joints normally. Any joint can suffer from this disease, but the base of the big toe in the ball of the foot is the one most commonly affected. The condition develops when deposits of sharp uric acid crystals build up in between the bones in your joints. These crystals scrape and injure the tissues until the issue subsides—at least until the next flare-up.

Silent and Sudden Arthritis Attacks

Unlike other forms of arthritis, which develop slowly over time and tend to create constant, chronic pain, the symptoms of gout appear suddenly and usually at night. Your toe swells and turns red as the inflammation increases. It may feel incredibly sensitive and be painful to move. The discomfort is worst during the first 12 – 24 hours, when the problem is at its most severe. After that, the pain decreases steadily. Discomfort from an attack typically lasts anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. Over time, the attacks tend to grow more and more intense, last longer, spread to additional joints, and create lumps of crystal deposits under the skin called tophi.

Like other types of arthritis, this condition is chronic. There is no real cure; however, it can be managed and controlled. Painful flare-ups are usually triggered by outside influences that cause the uric acid in your blood to build up instead of being filtered out and disposed of. These factors can be limited to prevent an attack. Treating the symptoms within the first day that they appear can help cut down the inflammation and reduce the damage to your joint as well.

Managing the Flares

Treatment for gout is conservative and can help cut an attack short and relieve your pain. Dr. Sanjay Patel and our staff at Family Foot Care & Surgery, L.L.C., will need to examine your lower limbs to accurately diagnose your condition. This is important for ruling out other possible causes for your discomfort and addressing the issue accurately. Our staff may use multiple tests to determine the extent of the damage. Then we’ll begin prompt care.

The sooner the issue is addressed, the quicker the problem can be resolved. Most likely you’ll need specific anti-inflammatory medication. The exact medicine may vary based on your overall health. In some cases, you may need direct injections. This helps lower the inflammation in the joint and decreases your risk for complications. Rest your foot during this time and avoid aggravating the affected toe. Icing the digit can help with the discomfort as well. Once the pain is under control, you’ll need to begin long-term treatment.

Managing the condition generally involves adjusting your diet. Food plays a significant role in the build-up of uric acid crystals, since the acid is produced when your body breaks down a kind of protein called purine. Limiting foods that are high in purines—including red meats and alcohol—can help reduce your risk for a flare-up. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to flush out uric acid in your blood. You may need to lose weight as well.

If you wake up in the middle of the night with excruciating gout pain, don’t wait for it to subside on its own and risk damage to your joints. Contact Dr. Sanjay Patel and Family Foot Care & Surgery, L.L.C. team in Connecticut right away to eliminate the pain and reduce the tissue injury. You can make an appointment with us by calling203-876-7736 for the Milford location, or 203-288-4055 for the Hamden office—or fill out our contact form to reach us.