If you wake up with a red, painful, swollen big toe—all common gout symptoms—it’s important to seek gout treatment right away. But what causes gout, and how can you choose the right treatment plan so that your symptoms don’t return?  Stick with us and you’ll get all the answers you need. 

Getting to the Root of Gout Symptoms

While gout comes and goes in flares, it’s actually a form of arthritis. But, while osteoarthritis symptoms develop when the progressive disease attacks your joints, gout flares up when high concentrations of uric acid build up in your blood, causing crystals to form around your joints. When that happens, you’ll develop gout symptoms such as burning pain and intense sensitivity to the touch. And, because your big toe joint is often the first area affected by a gout flare, your podiatrists in Medford, OR are likely to be the ones to diagnose this condition after your first flare. 

Now, your big toe isn’t the only joint that’s vulnerable to this condition. In fact, if you don’t seek quick intervention, your initial pain will fade, but other joints—including those in your ankles, knees, elbows, wrists and fingers—may be impacted. While this will cause additional discomfort, it could also impact your mobility. So, while a flare will eventually clear up on its own, that process could take weeks or months. So, to preserve your mobility and quality of life, it’s important to seek prompt gout treatment.  But why does uric acid start building up in your body? And is there a way to prevent flares instead of treating their symptoms? Let’s take a closer look! 

What Causes Gout Flares Right foot experiencing gout symptoms

As we explained earlier, gout flares are the result of uric acid crystals that form around joints. But why would the body start forming crystals? The answer is complicated. 

To begin with, your diet could be causing problems. Any time you eat protein, your body breaks it down, creating purines—and uric acid. Remember, high uric acid concentrations in your body lead to crystal formation. So, when you eat purine-rich proteins such as certain sea food items, organ meat or steak, uric acid production rise rapidly in your body. The same is true of beverages such as alcohol, beer or fruit juice, all of which cause your body to produce more uric acid, increasing your risk of developing gout symptoms. 

On its own, more uric acid won’t automatically trigger a gout flare. The trouble begins if that uric acid gets too concentrated. As such, by diluting the uric acid in your blood, drinking lots of water can protect you from gout flares. However, dehydration can trigger gout symptoms, since less fluid in your body will result in higher concentrations of uric acid. 

Now, diet and hydration are risk factors you can control. However, others—including your gender and family history, are more difficult to control. So, if you’re a man aged 30-50, you’re at higher risk for gout than other people. For that reason, it’s even more important for you to maintain a healthy weight—obesity can also increase your gout risk—and take preventative measures after an injury or surgery—in order to reduce your risk for future flares. 

Diagnosing Gout in Medford, OR

When you come into the office with painful gout symptoms, Dr. Evan Merrill or Dr. Devin Dimond will typically be able to diagnose you—almost immediately—with a clinical exam. But if we don’t see you during the initial period of symptom intensity, getting you an accurate diagnosis may involve drawing fluid from your big toe joint. Next, we’d examine the sample under the microscope; if crystals are present, that will confirm your gout diagnosis. Finally, we may order blood tests in order to determine how highly concentrated uric acid levels are in your blood, as that will help us craft your personalized gout treatment plan. 

Non-Surgical Gout Treatment in Southern Oregon and Northern California

In our Medford podiatry practice, we start tackling gout symptoms right away, by providing medication such as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories or steroid, in pill or injection form. These should quickly reduce your pain and medication. But if you need a bit more help, we may prescribe a gout medication known as Colchicine. This won’t be our first choice, however, since it often leads to unwanted side effects.  

Once your initial symptoms resolve, it’s time to start focusing on After the initial pain resolves, we’ll have to work on preventative care. Now, for some patients, that could be as simple as watching your diet and hydration levels and getting more exercise. However, if you’ve had more than two flares of gout in one calendar year, you may need to take medications, such as Uloric or Allopurinol, that can reduce your risk for future attacks by flushing uric acid from the body. Together with lifestyle changes, they can help protect you from this form of arthritis. 

One area of focus should be on limiting your juice and alcohol intake, while boosting the amount of water you drink each day. Steer clear of liver and excess amounts of red meat or shell fish, and make efforts to reach and maintain your ideal weight. Altogether, these efforts should help prevent future gout flares, and so we consider them part of a preventative gout treatment plan. 

Preventing and Treating Joint Pain 

Whether you’re suffering from a painful gout flare, or experiencing the progressive joint pain of osteoarthritis in your feet, our highly trained podiatrists in South Oregon are here to help. Call our office at 541-776-3338, or click here to contact us and request an immediate appointment with our doctors. 

Once you come in, we can offer quick and effective pain relief. And, after addressing the immediate problem, we’ll work together to reduce your risk for future gout flares, and for all the forms of arthritis that can attack your feet and threaten your mobility! 

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