Get out, gout! Avoiding and managing this unpleasant disorder
We all know what it’s like to suffer the consequences of wearing uncomfortable high heels or that new pair of loafers that just need “breaking in” (while breaking the skin on your heels in the process)—foot pain can put a damper on your day, especially if you were planning to go for a hike or a bike ride. And while these pains come and go depending on the shoe seasons, there’s a bigger foot issue you may not be aware of: gout.
Of all the common disorders that can be a pain in the neck, gout is primarily known as a pain in the foot—a severe one. Defined as a severe and potentially debilitating form of arthritis, gout most commonly begins as pain in the big toe, with stiffness and swelling of the joints. Caused by excess uric acid in the bloodstream, if left untreated gout can also affect other parts of the body, like your knees, hands and wrists.
Who is at risk?
While men between the ages of 40 and 50 and post-menopausal women are more likely to develop gout, it can also strike depending on your family history, medications and diet.
That’s right: If you eat a lot of food containing high levels of purine, like a lot of organ meats, red meats and certain types fish, these can contribute to rising levels of uric acid in the body, which can lead to gout. Drinking a lot of alcohol, especially beer, can also be a major contributing factor, along with sugary drinks and poor food choices; being obese raises your likelihood of this disorder.
Some other risk factors include having medical conditions like high blood pressure, kidney disease, thyroid disease and diabetes can contribute to gout.
Gout’s got me down. How do I manage it?
Since gout can be tricky to diagnose based on uric acids alone, sufferers of this disease may not know they have it until it flares, sending them reaching for the ice pack. The good news is that there are ways to avoid future attacks.
In addition to being treated by your doctor with appropriate medications that lower uric acids and keep the condition from becoming chronic, you can make positive diet changes that will not only help prevent gout attacks, but are good for your heart, too!
The DASH diet, which is mainly a low-fat, high-veggie and fruit diet prescribed for lowering blood pressure, has also been shown to powerfully counteract gout—and in some cases it even matched the effectiveness of medications used for treatment. Adding whole grain foods, plant oils, skim milk and plenty of water to your diet will help wonders!
During a gout flair, be sure to apply an ice pack to the affected joint to help with pain and inflammation; over-the-counter ibuprofen can also be helpful (just be sure not to take aspirin—this can make the attack worse!). Contacting your doctor should also be a crucial first step, because he or she may want you to take a different medication or take a joint fluid test. Your doctor may also give you a corticosteroid shot to lessen your pain quickly—if you get treatment within the first 24 hours of your attack, it can mean shorter recovery time.
And though it may sound simple, trying to relax can go a long way with a gout attack; stress can aggravate this pesky disorder, so finding your “happy place” with a book, a good movie, or a chat with a friend can go a long way.
Have more questions about gout? Check out these handy-dandy resources here. Need help finding a doctor that can diagnose and treat gout? We got you covered! Go here to find one. And while you’re at it, why not test your knowledge and take the gout quiz!