Foot pain is often frustrating. Aside from being uncomfortable, it can impair mobility, potentially resulting in poor productivity and even mental health concerns. If your pain is persistent and has no obvious explanation, consider contacting a foot doctor. Evolving arthritic foot pain can result from many conditions, but most people worry about the development of gout. Even though you may think that is the source of your pain, self-diagnosis is never suggested, especially since the cause of gout is typically only understood through diagnostic tests.
Despite the need for a professional diagnosis, gout is a treatable and often manageable condition. Before becoming overly concerned that you have the condition, it pays to understand its underlying causes and symptoms. Gain a complete understanding of gout by reading Arizona Foot Doctor’s comprehensive guide.
What is gout?
Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis. The condition can affect both men and women, but men are three times as likely to develop it because of the natural presence of higher uric acid levels throughout their lives. In addition, women who develop gout will often develop it after menopause, meaning they develop it later than most men.
While not a pervasive form of arthritis, gout is painful, typically affecting only one joint at a time. For most patients, gout is experienced in the small bones of the foot, often the big toe. As an inflammatory condition, gout is not always present or painful. The disorder often comes in ebbs and flows or in periods of flare-ups and remissions. Unfortunately, if gout occurs often enough, it can lead to gouty arthritis, worsening the underlying condition.
Get a professional evaluation at Arizona Foot Doctors.
What causes gout?
There are several potential causes of gout, but the breakdown of purines is what ultimately triggers the condition. As your body breaks down these crystalline compounds, it produces uric acid in the blood. Unfortunately, too much uric acid in the blood can lead to settlements in the joints of the foot, resulting in gout; it can also be the precursor to what causes gout flare ups.
Several conditions can lead to the overproduction of uric acid. Several contributing conditions include:
- Metabolic disorders
- Blood disorders
Aside from the overproduction of uric acid, gout can result from an underdeveloped or inadequate waste removal system. Many patients with inherited disorders, thyroid problems, or kidney issues can have difficulty expelling excess uric acid. Several characteristics increase your risks of developing gout, including:
- Family history
- Use of diuretics and cyclosporine
- High blood pressure
- Sleep apnea
- Kidney disease
- Thyroid disease
- Poor diet
Understanding gout symptoms
In learning about what causes gout, you will discover that the most common symptom is pain in the affected joint. The discomfort can be quite startling, even occurring in the middle of the night and waking you from sleep. The affected joint will typically feel warm, swollen, and stiff; it might even appear red.
It’s also possible for gout patients to experience complications or other conditions after diagnosis. These additional issues might include kidney and heart problems—but you shouldn’t fear these symptoms until you’ve spoken with your doctor.
A gout flare-up typically only lasts a week or two before settling. Several factors can bring about these flares:
- Alcohol consumption
- Physical trauma
- Certain medicines
- Certain illnesses
Diagnosing gout causes
Diagnosis of gout causes often involves the use of several tests. A podiatrist will want to discuss your symptoms and investigate the affected joint. Some of the tests to determine gout will include:
- Blood test: While a blood test can help a doctor explore the possibility of gout as a cause of your symptoms, it’s not always reliable. While high levels of uric acid in the blood are a typical precursor to gout, they’re not universal. Some people can have naturally high uric acid levels without gout, and others can experience signs and symptoms of gout without presenting with unusual levels in their blood.
- Joint fluid test: A doctor might want to examine joint fluid under a microscope to see if urate crystals are present. They will need to extract the fluid from the affected joint with a needle.
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound is another option for identifying urate crystals or tophi in the joints. Sound waves from the test will result in images, allowing the doctor to diagnose the problem in a non-invasive way.
- Dual-energy computerized tomography: DECT combines several X-ray images to help a doctor better visualize the field. The combination of these multi-angled images can provide proof of urate crystals in the joints.
- X-ray imaging: While not all X-rays help diagnose gout, they can help professionals rule out other joint inflammation causes. Narrowing a diagnostic focus is also helpful.
Learning about treatments and pain management for gout
Gout is not a curable condition, but it is manageable. A podiatrist or physician will often prescribe medications to manage pain and flare-ups, including NSAIDs—such as ibuprofen and colchicine—and steroids. They might also prescribe lifestyle changes to prevent future flares; these changes can include:
- Limiting alcohol
- Losing weight
- Eating less red or organ meat
- Changing or stopping medications associated with hyperuricemia
Preventative therapies and medications (febuxostat, allopurinol, and pegloticase) may also be suggested.
You can also reduce the risk of flare-ups by improving your diet and getting physically active. Exercise can be one of the best things you can do for arthritic conditions, especially low-impact forms of exercise, like walking, swimming, and cycling. It would be best if you aimed for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity weekly. However, be sure to check with your podiatrist to see what exercises are safe for you.
Schedule an appointment with Arizona Foot Doctors
Gout is a painful condition, but with proper intervention and the incorporation of preventative techniques, it’s possible to limit flare-ups and minimize discomfort. Understanding what causes gout is only the beginning for those suffering from the condition. Without a proper diagnosis, an individual may experience several flare-ups per year, with the condition only worsening over time. It’s crucial to get an official diagnosis if you believe you suffer from gout and begin receiving treatment to reduce recurrence rates.
Schedule an appointment with Arizona Foot Doctors in Scottsdale for professional diagnosis and treatment. Meet our podiatrists—we’re here to help you get your feet happy and healthy again!