How Does Gout Affect the Feet and Ankles?

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Gout of the foot and ankle
Gout of the foot and ankle

How Does Gout Affect the Feet and Ankles?

Gout is a painful form of inflammatory arthritis which affects the joints. Although it can impact the joints of your wrists, fingers, and elbows, it is the joints at the base of the big toe and the ankles which are mainly affected.

Gout attacks happen suddenly, and in most cases, the affected joint is tender, red, and swollen, and can be extremely painful.

If left untreated, a person can suffer from repeated attacks of gout. Men and obese adults over the age of thirty are at a greater risk of developing gout.

Symptoms of Gout

Gout flare-ups can happen suddenly, and in most cases, the attacks occur at night. However, there are certain early warning signs of a potential gout attack. Common symptoms of gout include:

  • Intense pain at the affected joint.
  • Inflammation, redness, or purplish discoloration of the skin.
  • Tenderness at the joint.
  • A sensation of warmth.
  • Limited movement in the affected joint.

In severe cases, gout can even lead to a high fever.

What causes gout?

Gout is caused when there is a build-up of uric acid crystals in the joints. Uric acid is a waste product routinely disposed of by the body through urine.

In some patients, however, the body starts producing uric acid faster than the rate at which it is disposed. When this happens, uric acid crystals are deposited in the joints.

Heredity and Other Factors Causing Gout

Gout can run in the family although the exact genetic link is not known. A person suffering from kidney disease can develop gout. In some patients, common medications such as aspirin can interfere with the normal process of disposing uric acid from the body, leading to a build-up.

On top of this, there are certain other medical and non-medical factors which can lead to gout. These include:

  • Diabetes and obesity.
  • Sickle cell anemia.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol (one of the organs which is affected by excessive alcohol consumption is the kidneys which produce urine – uric acid is disposed from the body through urine).
  • Consuming foods that are rich in purine (a substance naturally produced by the body which when broken down convert to uric acid).

How is gout treated?

Although gout is a very painful condition, the good news is that it is easily treated. The treatment process for gout involves reducing the uric acid levels in the body, reducing pain and inflammation and the other associated symptoms of gout, and preventing further attacks.

  • Your doctor will prescribe a medication that is used to decrease inflammation (typically a prescription grade medication like colchicine or indomethacin). These must be monitored and usually doctors will order laboratory tests.  
  • Additionally, increasing clear fluid intake and urine output is an important part of clearing out an acute attack of gout. 
  • If the inflammation is severe, the doctor might recommend corticosteroid injections for the affected joint.
  • The patient will also be advised to stay off their feet and use cold compresses to help reduce swelling.
  • In severe cases, surgery might be recommended to remove the deposit of uric acid crystals from the affected joint.

Acute Gout vs. Chronic Gout

Acute gout is different than usually chronic gout. Acute gout attacks are handled using the treatments listed above. However, for those who have a more chronic issues with gout, long term management may be necessary. Chronic sufferers will often need medication that can help prevent the frequent attacks.

Dietary Changes Can Help Control Gout Attacks

In addition to medication, making certain dietary changes, which include either completely avoiding or at the very least limiting the consumption of specific foods, can also help in controlling gout flare-ups. Dietary restrictions for preventing gout include:

  • Avoiding or limiting consumption of alcoholic beverages and foods that are protein-rich or high in purines like beans, peas, organ meats, and red meats. These aid in uric acid build-up. 
  • Patients suffering from gout are advised to drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to help flush out uric acid from the body.

Not Smart to Ignore

If you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms of gout, consult with a foot and ankle specialist to seek an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment as soon as possible. As mentioned above, if gout is left untreated, it can lead to repeated flare-ups.

Ignoring gout can also result in a long-term, painful arthritis called gouty arthritis. Gouty arthritis destroys the normal joint surfaces and erodes the cartilage and bone within the joint and cannot be cured. Additionally, gout can be deposited in the soft tissues especially near tendons. This can lead to tendon damage. 

Consult with Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle

Are you suffering from gout? Are you looking for relief from pain and effective treatment for preventing gout?

We at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle can help you. Connect with us here or give us a call today to set up an appointment! We want to hear from you!