A gout attack is not something we would wish for anybody. It often happens in the middle of the night, and the pain in your big toe can be so bad that you can’t even stand the pressure of a blanket over your foot. What is happening to make it hurt so badly?
Joint Pain from Crystals
Sometimes there is a problem with your body’s ability to handle the purines it produces or consumes. Purines are part of the chemical structure of genes and are found in the cells of humans, plants, and animals. When they break down, they form uric acid, which has an important role in blood vessel health.
However, some people build up too much uric acid in the blood or can’t excrete the excess properly through the kidneys. When the level is too high, uric acid crystals gather in tendons, joints, and certain organs—a condition called gouty arthritis.
One place the crystals often congregate is in the joints of your big toe. An attack can cause sudden, burning pain, along with stiffness and swelling. The toe is the most common site of an attack, but it can make other joints hurt, too.
Why You May Be at Risk
Certain habits and characteristics make you more prone to this condition. Being overweight or obese is one of them. Drinking too much alcohol is another, as is eating certain purine-rich foods. Some medications can also bring on this disease, such as diuretics for treating fluid retention.
Unfortunately, males are more likely to have this form of arthritis, although women’s risk increases after menopause. Even if you are at higher risk, there is much you can do to prevent attacks. Keeping weight under control, moderating alcohol use, and watching what you eat can make a big difference.
The important thing is to call us if you have a sudden, intense pain in your toe that is not explained by an injury. The earlier we can start treating a flare-up, the shorter the episode may be. Even after the pain, stiffness, inflammation and limited movement in the toe have been treated with pain medication, we may prescribe others that block purine production or improve how you get rid of excess uric acid. You may experience lingering effects for days or weeks after an attack.
Foods That Trigger Gout Attacks
Since purines contribute to the problem, it only makes sense to limit your intake of these substances. That includes proteins like steak and other red meats, organ meats, and seafood, and beverages like alcohol (especially beer) and those with high fructose sweeteners.
Some studies indicate that the purines in vegetables may not increase your risk as much as those in meats, and those in low-fat dairy products may actually reduce it somewhat.
Treatment for Foot Pain in Berkeley, CA
If you are awakened at night by severe pain in your big toe, contact Yuko Miyazaki, DPM as soon as possible to have your foot examined and determine whether gout is to blame. The sooner we start treatment, the sooner you can get relief from your discomfort. You can reach our office on Colby St in Berkeley by calling 510-647-3744 or filling out the contact form on our website. We want to help you manage the condition so you don’t have to suffer such an attack again.