Got Gout? Holiday Season Triggers Painful Toes!

Got gout? If so, Dr. Timothy Henke, a foot and ankle surgeon with Advanced Foot and Ankle, has a recommendation for surviving the holidays and long winter: Watch what you eat and drink. Changes in diet, including overindulging in certain foods and beverages, can cause gout attacks this time of year.

Causes of Gout

Gout sufferers can’t metabolize uric acid properly, which leads to a buildup of the acid and eventually a gout attack. Dr. Henke recommends that people prone to gout attacks avoid purine-rich items such as:
  • Shellfish (shrimp, crab, etc.)
  • Organ meats (kidney, liver, etc.)
  • Red meat
  • Red wine and beer
  • Sweet drinks with high amounts of sugar or high fructose corn syrup
Some people’s bodies simply produce too much purine, and others have high levels from a diet high in purines. Since uric acid is an end-product of purine, it’s important to follow a gout-friendly diet to minimize attacks.

Pain and Symptoms

Gout is a form of arthritis, and attacks are extremely painful. People suffering from gout experience intense pain, tenderness, swelling, and redness in their joints. Gout symptoms can begin suddenly, and often come at night.

This painful inflammation occurs when uric acid accumulates in the tissues or a joint and crystallizes. It’s most common in the big toe joint. Dr. Henke explains this is because the toe is the coolest part of the body and uric acid is sensitive to temperature changes.

Without treatment, gout can cause permanent joint damage, kidney problems, and nodules under the skin called tophi. Repeat gout attacks can also lead to arthritis in the big toe joint (hallux rigidus).

Treatment and Medication

Gout can be treated with medications, diet changes, increasing consumption of appropriate fluids, and immobilizing the foot. In some cases surgery is required to remove the uric acid crystals and repair the joint.

Anti-inflammatory medications can provide pain relief and lessen the length of an episode. Colchicine is often prescribed for patients with chronic gout. For overweight patients, weight loss can help control gout, but it’s important to lose weight at a slow and steady rate since rapid weight loss increases uric acid levels.

Because dehydration can trigger a gout attack, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids every day—water and seltzer are best. A diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and plant-based protein sources such as legumes and quinoa will also help decrease uric acid levels.
For more information on gout, contact Dr. Henke’s office at 414-281-1500 or send us an e-mail! Advanced Foot & Ankle has offices in Brookfield, Burlington, Greenfield, Franklin, and Milwaukee.