When gout attacks, it’s not subtle. Often, you get woken up to an intensely painful, throbbing red toe. It may be swollen, and so sensitive that even the touch of your bed sheet feels unbearable. But what are the gout causes that leaves you experiencing this flare? And how can we work together to treat your symptoms and prevent future attacks? In a minute, we’ll highlight all that information. But first, let’s get a better understanding of the condition itself. 

Understanding Gout Glasses of beer on a counter top

Gout is a form of arthritis that comes and goes in flares. It is not a progressive condition, unlike osteoarthritis, but it can still cause severe joint pain and damage if left untreated. But why would a flare develop? 

Basically, you experience a gout attack when uric acid levels in your blood reach too high a concentration. At that point, the concentrated acid forms crystals. And, when they build up around your joints, you experience the inflammation and pain of a gout attack. 

Your great toe joint is often the first spot affected by gout, but you may experience a flare in your elbow, ankle, finger or wrist joints. Regardless of which joint is first affected, a gout flare will cause intense pain for 12 hours, followed by lingering pain that could last for several weeks without intervention. 

Symptoms of Gout

In addition to pain, gout flares can make the skin around your affected joint red, swollen and warm to the touch. You’ll experience extreme sensitivity—even the touch of a feather could cause worsening discomfort. And, over time, an untreated gout flare can limit range of motion in your joints, ultimately impacting your mobility. 

What are the Gout Causes That Lead to Uric Acid Buildup?

Several different factors can cause uric acid concentrations to build up in your body, leading to crystal formation. Here are some of the factors that could results in a gout flare. 

Food and Drink

Eating too much protein or seafood could increase your risk for a gout attack. You see, these food groups—especially red meat and organ meat—contain high purine levels. And, when your body breaks purines down, it forms uric acid, causing concentrations to rise in your blood. 
At the same time, drinking alcohol can further complicate the problem. Gout causes flares when uric acid concentrations rise, and alcohol dehydrates you. As a result, any uric acid in your blood will become more concentrated, increasing your risk for a flare. Any form of alcohol can cause problems, but beer in particular seems to trigger more gout flares. 

Your Current Weight

Obese individuals tend to produce more uric acid in the body, meaning being overweight increases your risk for a gout attack. Furthermore, when you carry extra weight, kidney function may be impaired. The result? Your body is making more acid, but your kidneys are struggling to filter it out of your body. Now, concentrations will rise, crystals can form, and your big toe or other joints could be experiencing intense gout pain before you know it. 

Gout Causes: Medications and Supplements

If you need to take diuretics, your gout risk will increase, since these medications flush fluid from your body, allowing uric acid concentrations to elevate. Also, if you take medication for hypertension, you’ll face an increased risk for gout flares. 

Genetics and Family History

If you come from a family with a history of gout attacks, your risk will be elevated, as there does seem to be a genetic link to this form of arthritis. 

Age and Gender

For reasons that are unclear, men have a higher risk for gout attacks than women. (However, once a woman enters menopause, her risk for this form of arthritis becomes equal to that of a man.) Still, men between the ages of 30 and 50 are most likely to experience a gout attack. 

Exploring Gout Treatment Options in Medford, OR

When it comes to treating gout causes and symptoms, we can almost always reduce your pain and prevent future flare ups with minimally invasive medications. Our main weapons against this form of arthritis include changes to your lifestyle and, when indicated, short or long term courses of medication. 

Managing Gout Pain with Medication

When you come into our podiatry practice in Southern Oregon, we'll begin by focusing on relieving your pain. We will likely prescribe anti-inflammatory medications such as Indocin to provide fast pain relief. In some cases, we may prescribe a medication known as Colchicine, which is specifically intended to target gout-related pain. However, it can cause serious side effects, so it may not be an option for every patient. 

Addressing Gout Causes to Prevent Future Attacks

After relieving the immediate pain of your current flare, we need to focus on prevention. If your gout risk is high, or if you’ve had two or more flares in a year, you’ll likely need to take preventative medications—likely Allopurinol or Uloric—that help your body filter out uric acid to prevent future attacks.  

At the same time, we’ll work with you to make lifestyle changes that reduce your risk for future attacks by eliminating gout causes from your routine. That means looking at your diet and exercise program, helping you eliminate foods and drinks that increase your gout risk while helping you move more so you can reach and maintain a healthy weight.  
Remember, when we work together, we should be able to keep gout from causing intense joint pain in the future. If you’re suffering from a gout flare or need help preventing a future attack, reach out to our office today. With care and prevention, we can make sure that gout attacks don’t wake you up in the night, suffering from the intense pain of a throbbing, swollen, hot and red great toe joint!

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