What is gout?
Gout, which primarily affects the big toe, is a form of arthritis in which crystal deposits accumulate in the joints of your feet, sometimes leading to the formation of small, hard bumps that appear beneath the surface of your skin. Gout, which is caused by too much uric acid in the blood, can cause inflammation and pain in the affected toe joints.
What causes gout?
Gout occurs when there are excess levels of uric acid in your blood. When there is too much uric acid in the blood, it can cause crystals to form in your toe joints, leading to inflammation and pain in the joints of your foot. Your risk of developing gout may increase with:
- Frequent alcohol consumption
- Certain injuries, hospitalizations, or surgeries
- Certain diets, eating habits, or medications
- Being overweight
- Family history
In certain cases, gout has been linked to kidney disorders, lead poisoning, enzyme deficiencies, psoriasis, and organ transplants.
What are the symptoms of gout?
Along with inflammation and swelling of the affected toe joints, the most noticeable symptoms of gout occur during “gout attacks,” which are flare-ups of continuous, intense pain that can last for up to ten days. Symptoms of a gout attack include:
- Severe and sudden onset of pain in the affected toe joint
- Discomfort in the foot that continues after the intense pain has subsided
- Affected toe joint is tender to the touch
- Affected toe joint appears red or purple in color
- Affected toe joint becomes stiff
Prior to a gout attack, you may also experience a tingling or a burning sensation in your joints.
How is gout diagnosed?
Gout is diagnosed by your doctor or a podiatrist who will carefully examine your foot and the affected toe joints for signs and symptoms of gout. Additional testing, such as X-rays, ultrasounds, and blood work, may be needed to help your doctor rule out other possible causes of your joint pain.
If you believe you have symptoms of gout, you may set up an appointment with your doctor or a foot specialist who can confirm a diagnosis and determine what treatment regimen is most appropriate for you.
Can gout lead to complications if left untreated?
Left untreated, gout can lead to a dermatologic condition called tophi, in which urate crystals collect and form bumps that appear beneath the surface of your skin. Tophi can affect your feet as well as other areas or your body, such as your knees, wrists, elbows, hands, and ankles.
If urate crystals begin to form in your urinary tract, it may lead to kidney stones. Your doctor can recommend certain medications to help lower your risk of developing kidney stones.
How is gout treated?
To help alleviate symptoms of gout, your doctor may recommend that you elevate and apply ice to the affected foot. Anti-inflammatory medications may also be suggested to help reduce any pain that you are experiencing. Avoiding alcohol and sweets, as well as getting proper rest and consuming appropriate levels of water, can also help reduce symptoms and lessen the occurrence of gout attacks.
If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of gout, consult a podiatrist. Dr. Robert Stein is a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine who’s been in practice for over 25 years and strives to ensure that adults and children live without foot pain or discomfort. Call one of our locations or fill out the form on this page to schedule an appointment with South Shore Foot Care today.