Treating gout pain in the toes & ankles

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Milwaukee podiatrists treating gout pain

Early gout attacks can resolve on their own - but ignoring the underlying cause will only lead to more frequent, prolonged attacks.

Learn to recognize & manage gout pain

Gout is one of many health conditions causing pain in the feet. Most cases of gout affect the big toe joint, but it can occur in any joint including the ankles, knees and even the fingers.

Gout is a type of acute inflammatory arthritis caused by uric acid buildup in the joints. Uric acid comes from nitrogen-containing compounds called purines, found in many foods and drinks. Too much leads to formation of uric acid crystals, which collect in joints and cause not only gout but other problems such as kidney stones.

Why you should see a podiatrist for gout

As highly specialized doctors experienced in treating all types of toe and ankle pain, our surgical podiatrists are capable of diagnosing and treating both common and atypical presentations of gout.

Don’t put off getting a professional evaluation for your pain. Some symptoms of an acute gout attack can mimic an infection or other condition. It’s crucial to uncover the true cause of the pain for effective treatment.

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.

Don't let gout sabotage your holidays

Got gout? The holiday season can trigger painful toes! 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.

For more information on gout, contact us online to request an appointment.

Advanced Foot & Ankle of Wisconsin has podiatry clinics in Milwaukee, Greenfield, Brookfield & Burlington.