Although gout may sound like some old-fashioned illness that elderly people complain about, it is actually a very real (and very painful) form of arthritis that strikes the big toe and most often occurs in men between the ages of 40 and 60. It can, however, affect younger men and women too.
Gout comes about from an accumulation of uric acid that crystallizes and builds up in the joint and can affect any part of the body but on the foot, it most often is found in the big toe. There are two reasons for this: first the big toe is subject to a large amount of pressure due to its critical role in walking. Second, uric acid crystallizes at cooler temperatures. The big toe, being the part of the body farthest from the heart, is the coolest part of the body and the most likely depository for uric acid crystals.
The tendency toward gout can be hereditary. Other factors that make a person more prone to gout are:
- High blood pressure
- Certain medications and vitamins
How Do I Know if I am Having a Gout Attack?
Gout attacks can be extremely painful, characterized by a throbbing or burning sensation in the joint. Usually the base of the big toe is red and swollen and very tender to the touch. An attack of gout can last for several hours and is likely to reoccur periodically.
Diagnosis and Treatment
At Edmond Norman Foot & Ankle Clinic, our board certified podiatrist, Dr. A. Bil Buksh, will want to examine your toe and get information about the history of your symptoms. There are several other disorders that cause pain to the big toe area, such as sesamoiditis, hallux limitus and turf toe and a proper diagnosis is necessary to determine the appropriate treatment.
Treatment for gout involves resting and elevating your foot to help reduce inflammation and medication to help with the pain. Since foods and beverages high in purines can trigger a gout attack, the foot doctor will advise you to limit your intake of: red wine, beer, red meat, shellfish and rich sauces. Drinking lots of fluids to stay hydrated may also help prevent gout attacks.