Gout In Foot: Causes And Risk Factors
In about 90 percent of hyperuricaemia cases, there is impaired renal excretion in about 10 percent, there is a problem with overproduction.
- Urate overproduction can be linked to lifestyle factors and certain diseases such as bone marrow cancers, psoriasis, and hemolytic anemia. Lifestyle factors include being overweight and ingesting excess amount of fructose or alcohol.
- Renal impairment has multiple causes, including gene mutations, hypertension, diuretic drugs, lead exposure, and cyclosporine immunosuppressive therapy.
- Gender and age. Men are twice as likely to develop gout as women. In men, the risk rises with age. Gout is uncommon in younger women but the incidence increases dramatically after menopause, due to falling estrogen.
- Western diet. There is solid evidence from the Health Professional Follow-up Study of a link between gout and purine-rich foods. See gout diet.
- Medications. Diuretics, antihypertensives, niacin, aspirin, chemotherapy and immunosuppressive drugs increase the risk of gout.
- Other conditions. Certain conditions carry an increased risk of gout including: Recent joint injury or surgery, cardiovascular disease, chronic pulmonary disease, anemia, psoriasis, renal disease, blood cancers, and metabolic syndrome.
Signs And Symptoms Of Gout
Any joint can be affected by gout, but it usually affects joints towards the ends of the limbs, such as the toes, ankles, knees and fingers.
Signs and symptoms of gout include:
- severe pain in one or more joints
- the joint feeling hot and very tender
- swelling in and around the affected joint
- red, shiny skin over the affected joint
Symptoms develop rapidly over a few hours and typically last three to 10 days. After this time the pain should pass and the joint should return to normal.
Almost everyone with gout will experience further attacks at some point, usually within a year.
Read more about the complications of gout.
How Can An Attack Of Gout Be Treated
The management of an acute attack of gout is very different from the prevention of subsequent attacks.
Treatments used for prevention, such as allopurinol can actually make things worse if given during an attack, and so need to be held back until the attack has resolved for several weeks.
There are a number of measures that can help resolve an attack of gout. See Table 2 for summary of treatment strategies for acute gout. One principle is that treatment for an attack of gout should be instituted quickly, since quick treatment can often be rewarded with a quick improvement.
If an attack of gout is allowed to last more than a day or so before treatment is started, the response to treatment may be much slower.
Table 2: Medications to treat acute attacks of gout
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Pain Relief Without Medicine
Use cold. If your pain isn’t too bad, try cold packs or compresses on the joint to lower inflammation and soothe the ache. Wrap ice in a thin towel and apply it to the joint for up to 20 minutes several times a day. Do not apply ice to your hands or feet if you have nerve problems from diabetes or other causes.
Rest the joint. It’s a good idea to rest it until the pain eases up. You probably won’t want to move it much anyway. If you can, raise the joint on a pillow or other soft object.
Drink water. When your body doesnât have enough water, your uric acid levels rise even higher. Stay hydrated to help keep those levels normal.
Watch what you eat and drink. Foods that are high in substances called purines, such as some seafood, organ meats like liver, and fatty foods, can raise the uric acid in your blood even more. So can fructose-sweetened drinks and alcohol — especially beer.
The Role Of Medication In Prevention Of Gout
Table 3: Medications to pevent attacks of gout
Standard medications in preventing gout attacks
i. Colchicine : using the matches analogy discussed above1, using colchicine can be seen as dampening the uric acid matches. Colchicine does not lower the bodys store of uric acid, but it decreases the intensity of the bodys inflammatory reaction to these crystals. Recent studies have shown that at least one mechanism of colchicines action is by acting to prevent a cascade of reactions that lead to the production of interleukin 1-beta, which is an inflammatory protein , which is important in gouty inflammation.8
ii. Allopurinol: This agent is presently the most commonly used drug for the prevention of gout. Allopurinol blocks the enzyme xanthine oxidase, which blocks the breakdown of purines, thus decreasing the bodys total amount of uric acid. Allopurinol is effective in preventing gout no matter what the mechanism of the elevated uric acid was. Whether a person is making too much uric acid, or has difficulty excreting it via the kidney, allopurinols decrease in uric acid production leads to the same goal: a decreased total body uric acid.
Table 4: Reasons to use medication to lower uric acid
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Where Does A Gout Attack Occur
Gout often attacks the largest joint in your big toe. However, it can also attack the foot, ankle knees, hands, or wrists. Intense pain, redness, and swelling can start with no warning, although you may have warning signs of an impending attack. If you start to feel tingling, burning, or itching in a joint, your body is giving you a warning signal that a flare-up is imminent.
Gout In Big Toe Audience
I wrote How Long does Gout last in Big Toe for gout sufferers who want to understand gout pain in different joints. In particular, you will be interested in ways to reduce the length of gout attacks. But, in this article, I am not looking at gout medications that reduce pain. So, if you are looking for gout pain medications, please search using the gout search box near the top of each page.
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Arthritis / Acute Gout Attack
Gout is a form of arthritis, hence it causes pain and discomfort in the joints. A typical gout attack is characterized by the sudden onset of severe pain, swelling, warmth, and redness of a joint. The clinical presentation of acute gouty arthritis is not subtle with very few mimics other than a bacterial infection.
The joint most commonly involved in gout is the first metatarsophalangeal joint , and is called podagra. Any joint may be involved in a gout attack with the most frequent sites being in the feet, ankles, knees, and elbows.
An acute gout attack will generally reach its peak 12-24 hours after onset, and then will slowly begin to resolve even without treatment. Full recovery from a gout attack takes approximately 7-14 days.
An accurate and colorful discription of a gout attack was elegantly written in 1683 by Dr. Thomas Sydenham who was himself a sufferer of gout:
How Is Gout Diagnosed
In a clear-cut case, a primary care physician can make the diagnosis of gout with a high level of confidence. However, often there are two or more possible causes for an inflamed toe or other joint, which mimics some of the symptoms of gout, so tests to identify the presence of uric acid is performed.
Since the treatment for gout is lifelong, its very important to make a definitive diagnosis. Ideally, the diagnosis is made by identifying uric acid crystals in joint fluid or in a mass of uric acid . These can be seen by putting a drop of fluid on a slide and examining it using a polarizing microscope, which takes advantage of the way uric acid crystals bend light. A non-rheumatologist, when possible, can remove fluid from the joint by aspirating it with a small needle and send it to a lab for analysis. A rheumatologist is likely to have a polarizing attachment on their microscope at their office. Gout crystals have a needle-like shape, and are either yellow or blue, depending on how they are arranged on the slide .
Figure 11: Uric Acid Crystals Under Polarizing Light Microscopy
There are many circumstances where, however ideal it would be, no fluid or other specimen is available to examine, but a diagnosis of gout needs to be made. A set of criteria has been established to help make the diagnosis of gout in this setting .2
Table 1: Diagnosing gout when no crystal identification is possible
Ideally, 6 of 10 features will be present of the following:
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Know Which Foods Cause Gout Attacks
Third, whether you are taking medicine or not, you will have to make changes in your diet in order to reduce the frequency and severity of attacks. You should learn and note which items in your diet cause flare-ups, and avoid foods that cause gout symptoms to manifest. Avoiding these foods that cause gout is far easier than enduring another flare up.
Some of the foods that are known to cause gout include:
- sugary soft drinks
How Is Gout In The Ankle Diagnosed
If you think you might have gout but havent been diagnosed, try to see a doctor while youre having symptoms. Gout is easier to diagnose when youre in the middle of a flare-up thats causing swelling, redness, and other visible symptoms.
During your appointment, your doctor will likely ask you several questions about your diet, any medications you take, and whether you have a family history of gout. This can help to rule out other potential causes of your symptoms, including an infection or rheumatoid arthritis.
Your doctor may also order a blood test to check your uric acid levels. But some people have high levels of uric acid and dont develop gout. Others have typical uric acid levels but still develop gout. As a result, theyll want to do some other tests as well.
An X-ray, MRI, or CT scan of your ankle can also help to eliminate other possible causes of joint inflammation. Depending on your exam, they may also order an ultrasound to check for the presence of crystals in your ankle.
Finally, they might do a joint fluid test. This involves taking a small sample of joint fluid from your ankle with a small needle and looking at it under a microscope for any uric acid crystals.
Based on the results of your exam and tests, they may refer you to an inflammatory arthritis specialist called a rheumatologist for treatment.
Theres no cure for gout, but a combination of medications and home treatments can help to manage ankle pain and reduce the number of flare-ups you have.
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Acute Attack Pain Management
Home remedies. Reducing inflammation during an acute gout attack will provide pain relief.
- Ice. Apply ice to the affected area to reduce swelling. Do not apply ice directly to the skin. Use an ice pack or wrap a towel around the ice. Apply ice for about 20 minutes at a time.
- Elevate. Frequently raise and keep the affected area above the level of the heart.
- Rest. Move the affected area as little as possible while symptoms are present.
- Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines. If the gout attack is mild, anti-inflammatory drugs available without a prescription may relieve pain. Because there are serious side effect of using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs even the over-the-counter strength be sure to check with your doctor before taking them.
Prescription medications. Your doctor may recommend a prescription-strength non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine such as indomethacin.
Colchicine is also given to reduce inflammation during an acute gout attack. This drug has recently been approved by the Federal Drug Administration for treatment of gout. Like all medications, colchicine has side effects that you will need to discuss with your doctor.
Your doctor may also prescribe corticosteroids for acute gout attacks. These are strong anti-inflammatory medications that can be taken either in pill form, intravenously, or injected into the painful joint. Cortisone may improve the severe inflammation very quickly.
How Does A Doctor Diagnose Gout
If you have sudden or severe pain in a joint, you should talk to your primary care provider . Your PCP may send you to a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in gout and other kinds of arthritis.
Healthcare providers consider several things when confirming gout:
- Symptoms: The provider will ask you to describe your symptoms, how often they happen and how long they last.
- Physical examination: Your provider will examine the affected joint to look for swelling, redness and warmth.
- Blood work: A test can measure the amount of uric acid in your blood.
- Imaging tests: You may have pictures taken of the affected joint with X-rays, an ultrasound or MRI.
- Aspiration: The provider may use a needle to pull fluid from the joint. Using a microscope, a team member can look for uric acid crystals or a different problem .
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Treating A Gout Attack
The methods of stopping an attack of gout can vary depending on the severity of pain. Your orthopedic physician may give you a shot of corticosteroids. They may also prescribe other types of medications that are specifically designed to treat gout. To ease the pain during a gout attack, rest the joint that hurts. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine may also be prescribed to help reduce the pain. The good news is that following treatment, relief from the pain and discomfort of a gout attack often begins within 24 hours. It is important to still make an appointment with your orthopedic physician even if your pain from gout is gone. The buildup of uric acid that led to your gout attack can still harm your joints. An orthopedic physician will help you get relief from the pain of gout attacks and learn ways to prevent flare-ups in the future.
*The blog is for general information and educational purposes only regarding musculoskeletal conditions. The information provided does not constitute the practice of medicine or other healthcare professional services, including the giving of medical advice, and no doctor-patient relationship is formed. Readers with musculoskeletal conditions should seek the advice of their healthcare professionals without delay for any condition they have. The use of the information is at the readers own risk. The content is not intended to replace diagnosis, treatment or medical advice from your treating healthcare professional.
When Is Surgery Considered For Gout
The question of surgery for gout most commonly comes up when a patient has a large clump of urate crystals , which is causing problems. This may be if the tophus is on the bottom of the foot, and the person has difficulty walking on it, or on the side of the foot making it hard to wear shoes. An especially difficult problem is when the urate crystals inside the tophus break out to the skin surface. This then can allow bacteria a point of entry, which can lead to infection, which could even track back to the bone. Whenever possible, however, we try to avoid surgery to remove tophi. The problem is that the crystals are often extensive, and track back to the bone, so there is not a good healing surface once the tophus is removed. In some rare cases, such as when a tophus is infected or when its location is causing major disability, surgical removal may be considered.
Since it is hard to heal the skin after a tophus is removed, a skin graft may be needed. For this reason, we often try hard to manage the tophus medically. If we give high doses of medication to lower the urate level, such as allopurinol, over time the tophus will gradually reabsorb. In severe cases, we may consider using the intravenous medication pegloticase , since it lowers the urate level the most dramatically, and can lead to the fastest shrinkage of the tophus.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Gout In The Ankle
The main symptom of gout in the ankle is pain and discomfort in the surrounding area. Keep in mind that gout is often unpredictable, regardless of the joint its affecting. You might go weeks or even months without any symptoms, only to wake up with a burning pain in your ankle.
In some cases, gout starts out in one of your big toes before moving on to other areas, such as your ankle. Over time, these flare-ups may last longer than they previously did.
Other symptoms you might feel from gout in your ankle include:
Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Gout Attack
If you have been diagnosed with gout then your physician will prescribe medication for a gout flare-up. Ensure you follow the advice properly and do not skip taking medicine, especially during a gout flare-up. In most cases, it will probably be as soon as the first signs of gout start to manifest.
In addition to medication, these self-care tips and home remedies can help you get rid of a gout attack or a flare-up:
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How Gout Treatment Prevents Disease Progression
Fortunately, in part because of its long history, gout is one of the most well-understood and most medically treatable forms of arthritis. The progression of gout is preventable by starting appropriate treatment as soon as possible, Dr. Meysami says. Uric acid-lowering agents, such as allopurinol , can decrease uric acid levels and prevent gout attacks.
During flares, gout patients can take NSAIDs or corticosteroids to calm the attack. Local steroid injections may also be given. A medication called colchicine is also often used to stop acute attacks, but its given now at a much lower dose in order to avoid side effects, including stomach upset.
After a flare ends, long-term treatment can begin. Almost all people with gout will need medication to control their urate, Dr. Fields says. To get a good outcome, people with gout need to get their blood urate level below 6.0 mg/dl and keep it there. By doing that, the body will gradually pull the urate crystals out of their joints, and the flares can stop. Tophi will also gradually disappear.
Medications called xanthine oxidase inhibitors limit the amount of uric acid your body produces. These include allopurinol and febuxostat . Colchicine, which decreases the inflammatory response to gout, may also be given along with allopurinol at the start of long-term treatment after a flare subsides.