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What Causes Gout?

Being born of royal blood sounds like a dream come true. Unless of course if you suffer from gout. Known throughout history as “the disease of kings,” gout often is associated with indulgent cuisine and a privileged lifestyle. But as is the case with much ancient lore, facts and science have proven that is false, kind of. So what exactly is gout and what causes it? You may be surprised to learn that you don’t have to be of the manor born to suffer from this painful condition but there are ways to reduce your risk of getting gout.

What is gout?

Gout occurs when uric acid, which is a waste product made by our bodies naturally, builds up in the blood, causing urate crystals to form into sharp, needlelike shapes that can get lodged in a joint. While gout is a form of arthritis, it is a bit different. Gout can occur in any joint but most commonly presents at the base of the big toe. When this happens, you may experience any one or more of the following symptoms.

– Sudden and Severe Pain – Debilitating and severe, gout pain most often occurs without warning, especially when one is sleeping or in the middle of exercising or walking.

– Swelling – Gout flare-ups are most common in the joint of the base of the big toe.  As such, patients often describe the swelling as a protruded bump similar to a bunion. After several hours, the swelling does go down but pain may last for hours or days.

– Redness and Heat – Gout is also characterized with redness and heat at the affected joint. The swollen joint can become red in color and feel hot to the touch for several hours during a gout flare up.

– Discomfort – Gout pain can last from a few hours to a few days, and then, once it’s gone, discomfort generally lingers for a few weeks, usually in the form of pain and swelling.

– Limited Range of Motion – Gout causes range of motion to decrease in the joint. As the gout flare-up subsides, patients often see their range of motion return to normal.

What Causes Flare-Ups?

Gout flare-ups may come on suddenly, but they are usually not the cause of random bad luck. Very often, the attack is triggered by the following causes that can result in the build-up of uric acid.

– Diet – As a rule, certain foods do affect gout. Some are considered delicacies, to include shellfish and red meat; however, other foods are part of an average diet and include sugar and high-fructose syrup, processed foods, and smoked meats. Alcohol consumption also has been known to contribute to gout attacks.

– Weight – Being overweight or obese makes it more difficult for the body to process and excrete uric acid, causing a higher risk of uric acid buildup. Losing weight will decrease your risk of flare-ups, and may also encourage you to pursue a healthy, wholesome diet.

– Medical Conditions – Some medical conditions – diabetes, kidney disease, and some metabolic issues, for example – do increase the risk of higher uric acid levels in the body.

– Hereditary – If you have family members with a history of gout, you run a higher risk of developing it, too. 

Treatment

If you have been diagnosed with gout, there are some simple things you can do at home to relieve the pain. At first sign of a flare-up, take some over-the-counter anti-inflammatories; then ice and elevate the affected joint. Continue to hydrate (water is best; avoid caffeinated, sugary or alcoholic drinks). Relaxation is important to avoid stress. Finally, reach out to your doctor as soon as possible for a referral options.

If you suspect you may have gout or any other concern that’s affecting the functionality of your joints, consider seeing the professionals at the Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence. Our board-certified physicians have a wealth of experience treating a variety of conditions, including joint pain and gout. If you do have gout – or any other condition – you can expect the royal treatment. Call 719-623-1050 to make an appointment today. You can also request an appointment online.

Five Disorders that Podiatrists Can Treat

There’s an Irish proverb:  “Your feet will bring you to where your heart is.” But what about when your feet are hurting?  Taking that first step to where your heart is can be harder than you think.

Recent research from Stanford University found that the average American takes nearly 5,000 steps daily – and that’s not counting running or working out. There’s no denying your feet are the body’s workhorses, which makes them susceptible to a variety of structural, biomechanical, and cosmetic issues. A board-certified podiatric surgeon can be a valuable resource, offering techniques and procedures to mitigate your pain from a variety of conditions, as well as increase your mobility.   Here are five disorders you can rely on your podiatrist to treat:

1.   Plantar Fasciitis

The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, joining your heel bone with your toes.  Runners, people carrying excessive weight (whether overweight, pregnant, or forced to carry heavy objects such as backpacks or equipment), and those in occupations that require prolonged standing, are all at risk at developing plantar fasciitis. Inadequate or unsupportive footwear is another culprit. This painful condition, which is marked by a stabbing pain underneath the foot, is one of the most commonly cited reasons for heel pain.

How it’s treated. A podiatrist may recommend several at-home remedies to alleviate your pain. This could include maintaining a healthy weight, ice massage, investing in the appropriate shoes with the right fit and support, and switching to a low-impact sport.  A foot and ankle specialist will be able to diagnose this condition, as well as test for pain with a pressure test. They may recommend rigid, custom orthotic inserts that will realign the foot, provide arch support, and prevent this issue in the future.  Offering treatment round the clock, a night splint will provide consistent, automatic stretching during shuteye – making morning time a little less unpleasant.  He may also recommend anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, and deep icing.

2.   Bunions

Their medical name, Hallus Valgus, sound impressive.  But in reality, this lofty name is nothing but bunions, and anyone with bunions already has enough names to call this painful, unsightly condition.  To understand Hallus Valgus, you must first understand how they form. Developing gradually over time, bunions form as pressure on the big toe that pushes it toward the second toe. This can cause structural changes when the joints becomes misaligned, resulting in the large protruding lump that is the most common characteristic of bunions.  Smaller bunions are called “bunionettes,” but don’t let the cute name fool you.  They are just as unsightly and painful as their larger cousins.

How they’re treated. A reputable podiatrist will first offer conservative approaches; this could include bunion padding, icing, toe spacers, orthotics, and/or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling. Should the pain persist, the doctor might recommend a bunionectomy, where the surgeon will shave down the bunion and realign the toes.

3.   Athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot, known as Tinea Pedia, is the most common type of fungal infection.  This fungus gravitates toward the feet because shoes and places like locker rooms and pool decks promote the warm, moist, dark breeding ground where fungus thrive. 

How it’s treated. Your podiatrist can prescribe topical or oral antifungal meds to make it disappear. If bacteria are to blame, you may require an antibiotic.

4.   Diabetes

Diabetics are no stranger to podiatric concerns as a result of high blood sugar and reduced nerve functioning, which can prevent the skin from healing and reduce blood flow to the feet, respectively.

How it’s treated. Ten percent of all diabetics experience a foot ulcer at some point in their life. One of the most startling aspects is that diabetics often don’t notice foot pain until after the ulcer has formed. Podiatrists can provide yearly foot examinations to determine if a patient shows any symptoms. They can also “dress” and protect the affected area, so it may heal properly.

5.   Gout

Many people are aware that arthritis can take a toll on the hands, but what about the feet? When high levels of uric acid build up the blood, urate crystals form near the joints causing abrupt, severe attacks of pain, inflammation, redness, and tenderness in the joints.

How it’s treated.  Gout usually manifests in the joint at the bottom of the big toe, and often is triggered by food and drinks with greater levels of uric acid, such as meat, shellfish, and poultry. Your physician can recommend which items to steer clear of; he may also suggest a regimen of NSAIDs and corticosteroids to control pain and reduce inflammation. In some cases, a uric-acid blocker may be prescribed.

Don’t walk away from podiatric issues! Address them head on with the help of a reputable and trustworthy podiatric specialist. Dr. Frederick Hainge of The Colorado Center for Orthopaedic Excellence is a board-certified podiatric surgeon who diagnoses and treats a variety of foot and ankle disorders. For happy feet, take that first step and schedule an appointment today by calling 719-623-1050.

The 411 on Gout

Gout is a painful form of arthritis, characterized by inflammation that occurs when uric acid builds up and crystalizes in your joints. Symptoms include painful inflammation, tenderness and redness around the affected joint. Some people experience gout in different joints of the body, such as the knees or elbows, but it most commonly effects the big toe.

If you have high levels of uric acid in your blood, you may have a condition called hyperuricemia. Your liver normally metabolizes uric acid, and the kidneys get rid of it when you go to the bathroom. The levels of uric acid build up when not enough uric acid is eliminated, or too much uric acid is being produced. The purines in our food which increases the uric acid levels in our blood, are known to bring on gout attacks.

The uric acid buildup takes a crystalline form, and often finds a home in the joints. Since our joints need to stay lubricated and run very smoothly, a buildup of crystals will cause inflammation and pain, known as gout. When you are experiencing a gout attack, the affected joint will feel hot, swollen, turn red and will become very sensitive to the touch. The onset of pain during a gout attack will increase for 24-48 hours if left untreated.

Blood and urine tests are always recommended by your doctor in order to measure the level of uric acid in your blood. Taking in fluids dilutes the levels of uric acid, so drinking at least 64 ounces of water a day is ideal for breaking down uric acid levels, and as a result gout pain may decrease.

If you are experiencing gout flare-ups, it could be one of a few reasons and risk factors: males over 40 years old, family members with a history of gout, obesity, aspirin medications, a diet consisting of high purine foods or high-fructose drinks. Heavy drinking also contributes to elevated uric acid levels.

More often than not, gout has to do with our diet and what we are eating. It’s best to stay clear of certain foods when you have high uric acid, have had gout attacks in the past or family members that have had it as well. Certain medications can help control uric acid levels, and your orthopedic doctor can recommend the best treatment option for you.

While gout may seem like something that you can manage, it’s best to get it treated right away before inflammation and pain turn into more serious injury or disease. To learn more about gout and how to avoid it, call Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence in Colorado Springs at (719) 623-1050 or request an appointment online.