You wake up to an excruciating pain in your foot. There is a redness. There may be swelling, heat and a stiffness in the joints. Your big toe seems to be the worst.
Or, maybe it just hurts like crazy and you don’t know why. You don’t see any swelling or redness.
It doesn’t have to be the big toe. It could be your instep, or ankle, or in your heel. But it hurts to the point of tears.
Gout: Something You Don’t Want To Get
If you’ve ever had gout, you know what I mean. The flare up, ‘flare’, is the worst part. It may last a day or two, or, you could suffer for as long as two weeks.
What is gout?
Gout is a part of the arthritis family. Experts believe it is, of all forms of arthritis, the most painful.
The truly painful affliction of gout is considered a major health concern. Having said that, it seems odd that there is very little anyone can do to prevent the disease.
Medicine knows what it is, and they have a few answers of what to do.
Primary, is to limit your risks related to diet. Gout is a buildup of uric acid (urate) crystals in the joints. Uric acid in itself is not bad. It is the excess that creates the crystal buildup in joints.
The culprit is purines. Purines is a normal and common compound found in body tissue. When purines are broken down, the byproduct is uric acid.
Too much purine equals the risk of excess uric acid ending up with the risk of gout.
In most cases, the normal amounts of uric acid is dissolved in the blood. It is then processed in the kidneys and vacated via the urine stream. Interesting enough, it is the same excess uric acid, that gives rise to kidney stones.
Long term effects of excess uric acid may be a buildup of urate crystals in joints. The needle like crystals cause inflammation, swelling, and pain.
It is most often found in the feet and big toe. Other joints are also at risk for this form of arthritis, known as gout.
The flare up of gout is nearly incapacitating. The disease can be traced to ancient Egypt dating to five centuries BC, where is was referred to as “unwalkable disease.”
Where do purines come from?
It’s in what we eat. Purines are found in meats, poultry and seafood, and some vegetables. Most lists will include items such as liver, anchovies, and dried beans.
Other risk factors
While those at risk can help themselves by using caution in the listed foods here, other factors are important.
Obese people have a higher risk of excess uric acid. Those that use alcohol and eat foods high in purines also have an increased risk. Combine all these factors and the risk of gout soars.
Other factors include heredity. Family history increases risk. Having an enzyme defect, may be apart of the heredity concept, increasing risk. It can make it hard for the body to break down purines.
People who have had an organ transplant as well as those using diuretics, aspirin, cyclosporine, or levodopa may be at a higher risk of gout and the painful flare ups.
Finally, the common practice of taking the vitamin niacin can have the side effect of aiding in raising the levels of uric acid.
How do you know if you have it?
The short answer seems to be, you won’t. At least not before your first flare up. It will be the sudden painful sensation in your foot as mentioned at the beginning of this article.
What is called a ‘flare’ is caused by the buildup of urate crystals in joints. They may be there for long periods of time without symptoms. The ‘flare’ is then triggered by an event. Experts believe it may be from stress, alcohol, or drugs.
An interesting fact is the urate crystals in the joint. It is similar to a more familiar form of arthritis where a build up of calcium is the cause of pain or discomfort.
There are no real symptoms.
If you believe you’re at risk, you may get a warning with a blood test. It would determine if you have elevated levels of uric acid.
By the time you are experiencing ‘flares’, experts will describe your disease as ‘acute’. Even with the diagnosis, flares may not reoccur of months or even years.
When inflammation occurs around the joint, it may appear as a large lump. This will be called chronic gout and is the final stage of the disease. The stage generally takes years to develop.
Having your blood tested is not foolproof. Studies show that even with elevated uric acid results, the certainty of developing gout are nowhere near clear.
Similarly, some of those tested and found to have normal levels of uric acid, have developed gout.
Doctors have the ability to determine if urate crystals are present in a joint. When it is determined that the urate crystals exist, a treatment using a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, colchicine or corticosteroids may be ordered.
The use of the medications may aid in reducing effects of future flares, kidney stones, and the final stage of chronic gout which includes tophi. The large painful lumps caused by swelling.
What are we supposed to do?
There are prevention tactics. They come without any guarantees.
- Diet was mentioned earlier. Certain foods are high in purines. The source and cause of high uric acid levels. The list includes meats, poultry and seafood as well as certain vegetables. Specific items are beef kidneys, asparagus and dried beans.
- In addition, when reducing risks, drink at least 2 to 4 liters of liquids per day, maintain a healthy body weight and limit alcohol consumption.
I did read that if you are trying to lose weight and are concerned with the risks of gout, do not include a low carb diet in your weight loss plan.
Reducing carbs will limit the body in burning fats. There is a domino effect that occurs. When fat stores are not burned, the body releases ketones into the blood causing a buildup of uric acid through a process known as ketosis.
Higher uric acid increases the amount of urate crystals building in the joints.
There a treatments for gout that may fall into the home remedy or holistic category. I did not find any such treatment in the articles I read.
I do know anecdotally , that taking cherry juice when a flare occurs can limit the severity of the flare.
Getting the gout is like having shingles. It is one of those things you never want to experience.
If you have questions or comments, let me know in the comments section below