There are many types of arthritis — more than 100 as a matter of fact — but they all have one thing in common: They cause painful inflammation in your joints.
The two most common kinds of arthritis are osteoarthritis, which occurs as a natural consequence of using your joints for a lifetime, and rheumatoid arthritis, which stems from autoimmune conditions that cause your body to attack its own tissues.
Whichever type you have, Dr. Farah Khan, our board-certified internist at Millennium Park Medical Associates in Greenwood Village, Colorado, offers evidence-based treatments that reduce pain and inflammation and help you function fully despite your arthritis.
Here, she takes a closer look at gout, a type of arthritis that typically settles in the big toe.
What does gout feel like?
One of gout’s signature characteristics is how it seemingly attacks you out of nowhere. You may feel fine one minute, then have searing pain the next. If it happens at night, even the weight of a lightweight sheet or blanket may feel unbearable on your affected big toe.
When you take a look, you notice that you’ve got a large bump at the base of your big toe, and it’s hot, red, and tender. The initial pain may subside in about an hour or remain intense for up to 12 hours. Eventually, the acute episode subsides, but the discomfort may linger for days.
Who gets gout?
You can blame your gout on an excess of uric acid — the substance produced when your body breaks down purines — in your blood. When you have too much uric acid, it forms crystals that accumulate in your joints, particularly at the base of your big toe.
How do you get an excess of uric acid in your blood? It can happen in one of two ways: either your body is producing too much, or your kidneys aren’t getting rid of it efficiently. Uric crystals are jagged and sharp, so when they lodge in your joint, the pain can be excruciating.
Things that put you at risk for gout include:
- Being overweight
- Eating purine-rich foods (organ meats and game meats, seafood)
- Drinking alcohol
- Drinking fruit juices or fructose-sweetened beverages like soda
- Taking blood pressure medications
- Having diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, heart or kidney disease
- Having a family member with gout
Men tend to have higher uric acid levels than women, which is why they are at higher risk for gout, especially between the ages of 30-50. Most women who get gout experience it after menopause.
What to do about gout
Although arthritis, including gout, can’t be cured, there are some effective treatments that can ease your symptoms and help you live comfortably with your disease.
Dr. Khan addresses your gout on two fronts: reducing inflammation and uric acid.
She recommends medications that focus on the painful inflammation of acute flare-ups, such as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs for minor pain and prescription-strength drugs for more severe pain.
Reduce uric acid
The second treatment goal is to lower the amount of uric acid in your blood. If you have recurring gout attacks or gout-related joint damage, Dr. Khan may recommend medication to block your body’s uric acid production or remove uric acid from your blood.
There’s a lot you can do to help prevent gout flare-ups without resorting to drugs. If you’re overweight, work on losing a few pounds by increasing your exercise and eating a healthy diet.
And if you have gout, do yourself a favor and steer clear of foods that contain a lot of purines — think sardines, scallops, beef, organ meats, trout, tuna, and anchovies. If you’re a beer drinker, you may need to cut back to avoid a gout attack. And instead of drinks sweetened with fructose, reach for water instead.
If you have gout or think you might, the best thing to do is come see Dr. Khan for a complete evaluation and treatment plan that can have you back on your feet in no time. Schedule an appointment online or call us today.