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People as varied as Alexander the Great, Luciano Pavarotti, Dick Cheney, and Jim Belushi have suffered from gout attacks. Belushi eventually became a spokesperson for an educational campaign on the topic after he was diagnosed with this painful condition. Knowing what causes this disease can put you on your guard against the risk of toe pain at night putting you out of action.

Big Toe on Fire

GoutThis complex form of arthritis most often affects the joint at the base of your big toe. You may wake at night with excruciating pain, and the joint will be swollen and hot. Touching it might send you through the roof, and putting weight on it will almost be impossible.

Gout attacks are the result of too much uric acid in your blood. This acid is produced as your body breaks down purines—those that occur naturally in your body or are found in certain foods that you eat. If you produce too much of it, or your kidneys don’t excrete it properly, small urate crystals form and lodge in your joints or the tissue around them. Imagine sticking tiny slivers of glass between the ends of two bones and you will understand something of the pain involved. Your body sends extra blood to the area, causing inflammation and swelling as well.

Am I at Risk for Gout Attacks?

For some unknown reason, men suffer from this condition more often than women, but women become more susceptible after menopause when uric acid levels increase. If you have more than one or two alcoholic drinks per day, or take diuretic medications for high blood pressure, your risks also increase. Medical conditions like diabetes and atherosclerosis can be factors as well.

Eating foods high in purines can also make an attack more likely. This includes red or organ meats, certain seafood, asparagus, legumes, and mushrooms. To decrease your risk, make sure you drink plenty of fluids (but not alcohol), use low-fat dairy products as protein sources, eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and maintain a good weight for your height. (Avoid rapid gain and loss, which can increase uric acid levels).

Putting out the Fire

If you wake with severe toe pain at night, come in to Abbott Foot & Ankle Clinic and let us check it out. We can take a sample of your joint fluid and your blood and test it for urate crystals or high uric acid levels.

Several medications are available to treat the pain and prevent future gout attacks. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), colchicine, and corticosteroids can relieve the pain. Xanthine oxidase inhibitors lower your uric acid levels and probenecid makes your kidneys more able to remove excess acid from your blood. However, they may come with unpleasant side effects. The best way is to not allow the fire to start in the first place. Follow the diet and lifestyle suggestions listed earlier and head off an attack before it begins.

Chiropodist Tony Abbott can help you find the best solution for your foot pain. Call Abbott Foot & Ankle Clinic in Collingwood, ON, at (705) 444-9929 to set up an appointment today. Feel free to ask us any question about gout or other foot issues you may have. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook for current foot care information.

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