Does your big toe suddenly become red, swollen, and incredibly sore at night? Maybe you have begun developing itchy, peeling skin in the affected area, too. The pain probably subsides in the daytime, only to return again with a vengeance the next night. If this sounds familiar, you're probably suffering from a condition known as gout. Here's what you need to know:
What is gout?
Gout is a form of arthritis. It is caused by inadequate processing of uric acid in the body. The uric acid builds up in the bloodstream and is deposited in the joints, causing the symptoms you're experiencing. These symptoms almost always start in the big toe(s), but if you do not seek treatment, you may begin experiencing similar pain, stiffness and inflammation in your ankles, knees, and even hands. Often, the symptoms come in spurts. They're bad for a while, then they start to subside – only to return again weeks or months later.
What should you do if you think you have gout?
If you are suffering from symptoms that you think are due to gout, you should contact your physician or podiatrist and schedule an appointment for an examination. Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and conduct a blood test to determine if you really do have gout. While you're awaiting your appointment, you can take a few measures to keep yourself comfortable:
- Keep your foot elevated. Prop it up on a pillow when you are sleeping.
- Apply ice to the toe to reduce swelling.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen to manage the pain.
If you are diagnosed with gout, your treatment may include:
- Taking medications to regulate the amount of uric acid in your bloodstream.
- Limiting the amount of seafood and meat in your diet. (These foods can raise uric acid levels).
- Limiting alcohol intake. (Alcohol can increase uric acid levels.)
- Keeping your weight under control, or losing weight if you are overweight.
Can gout be cured?
There is no cure for gout, but with the treatments described above, you can minimize the frequency of the attacks and their severity. Usually, when you begin treating gout when the pain is only in the big toe, the symptoms don't progress to the point of causing substantial pain in other joints. However, different medications work well for different patients. You may need to work with your doctor or podiatrist and try several different medications before you find one that works for you.
For more information, contact Northside Foot & Ankle or a similar location.