Gout: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Gout is a common but painful condition that typically affects the big toe.

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What Is Gout?

Gout is a form of arthritis marked by sudden, severe pain in the affected joint. The accumulation of uric crystals in the joint may cause a gout attack. Gout often occurs in the large joint of the big toe, although it may affect any joint, including ankles, elbows, fingers, knees, and wrists.

What Are the Symptoms of Gout?

The most common symptom of gout is intense joint pain. This pain is nearly always sudden – there’s no slow build to a gout attack. However, after the initial attack, pain often lingers, sometimes for weeks.

In addition to joint pain, patients often experience inflammation and redness at the affected joint. The area may also feel tender and warm or appear swollen and red – or both.

Many forms of arthritis get worse over time, including gout. If this happens, it may inhibit normal movement.

Illustration of gout with uric acid callout

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What Causes Gout?

Gout is caused by the buildup of uric acid in the blood. When this happens, urate crystals form and accumulate around the joint. The result is inflammation, pain, and swelling.

Your body produces uric acid as a byproduct of breaking down substances known as purines. In addition to occurring naturally in the body, purines are also found in red meat, seafood, and organ meats. Certain beverages also increase levels of uric acid, particularly beer and drinks sweetened with fructose (i.e. fruit sugar).

Gout Risk Factors

Gout infographic

The main risk factors for gout are anything that causes uric acid to build up in your blood stream.

  • Diet: If you have gout, avoid overindulgence in red meat, seafood, beer, and sugar-sweetened drinks.
  • Weight: Obesity causes your body to produce elevated levels of uric acid and reduces your kidneys’ ability to eliminate it.
  • Sex: Men tend to develop gout earlier than women do, from age 30 to 50. Women have lower levels of uric acid than men do until they reach menopause. After that, men and women have similar risk.
  • Family history: Like many health conditions, your gout risk rises if others in your family have the disease.

The best way to lower your risk of a gout attack is through healthy lifestyle changes. Namely, this means:

  • Staying hydrated helps your kidneys flush out uric acid.
  • Limit alcohol intake, particularly beer. This is especially true for men.
  • Choose low-fat dairy for quick protein fixes
  • Eat meat and fish in moderation, particularly red meat and shellfish
  • Watch your weight

Can a Podiatrist Treat Gout?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for gout. However, that does not mean you shouldn’t seek treatment. Without treatment, gout just gets worse and may lead to permanent joint damage.

Consulting a podiatrist ensures you receive a proper diagnosis. Your doctor can also prescribe medications to treat inflammation as well as work with you to make the healthy lifestyle changes to minimize risk.

If your symptoms also include a fever or the joint feels hot or inflamed, seek immediate medical attention. You may have an infection.

Foods that contribute to gout