A little scenario for you, you went to bed feeling fine the night before and then woke up in the morning with extreme foot pain, redness, and swelling. You’re positive that you didn’t injure it the day before, so you’re confused. You ask yourself, what could have caused this? Should I see a doctor? But most importantly, how can I make this pain go away?! Well, you could be experiencing an acute gout attack. Gout has been known to come on abruptly without a history of trauma or known cause and some people have even described it as being so painful that a simple bed sheet on top of the area is excruciating.
What is Gout?
Gout is a type of painful arthritis that is caused by a buildup of uric acid in the blood. When uric acid levels get too high it crystallizes and then those crystals get deposited into joints. The most common joint affected is the big toe joint but, it can also occur in the ankle, knee, shoulder, or any other joint really. It typically affects males between 40-60 years old.
There are many different theories about what causes gout. What we do know is that genetics plays a big factor and also certain foods and drinks, such as seafood, red meat, and alcohol. So, next time you get together for one of those big holiday parties that are coming up be cautious of that, particularly if you’ve had gout before or if you know it runs in your family.
How is Gout Diagnosed?
Although there are labs and procedures that can be done to help confirm the diagnosis of gout it is very much a condition that is diagnosed clinically, meaning that a good history and physical exam by your doctor is usually what it takes. Your doctor may have your blood uric acid level checked but even then, uric acid levels may be normal (~3.5-7.2 mg/dL) during an acute gout attack so it’s not something that you should solely rely on.
An acute gout attack warrants a visit to your local podiatrist. Typically, treatment is painless and consists of medication, fluid intake, rest and elevation, and dietary restrictions to help prevent it from happening again. For repeat acute gout attacks, your podiatrist may prescribe medication to take long-term or even recommend surgery.