What Causes Gout (And What Can I Do About It)?

Gout, a painful type of arthritis that strikes your big toe, has the potential to literally stop you in your tracks. A chronic condition, gout flare-ups can come on suddenly, causing severe pain and a swollen, inflamed, and irritated big toe joint.

The good news is, it’s possible to prevent recurrences of gout, even if you’ve previously experienced a flare-up. The primary podiatrist at the Mission Viejo, California-based Podiatry Hotline, Thomas Rambacher, DPM, explains what causes gout, and what you can do to prevent it.

Causes of gout

Gout is caused when crystals accumulate in your big toe joint. These crystals are caused by an excess of uric acid in your body. 

Your body uses uric acid to break down certain foods high in a compound called purines, such as alcohol, meat, and other drinks sweetened with sugar. Typically, you expel uric acid after it gets absorbed by your bloodstream and passes through the kidneys.

However, when your body makes too much uric acid or your kidneys aren’t excreting enough uric acid, the excess buildup in your system can form crystals. These crystals cause the pain, inflammation, and redness in the big toe associated with gout.

Gout risk factors

Certain people are at higher risk of experiencing gout flare-ups. Men generally have higher odds of getting gout, especially men between 30 and 50 years old. Women’s risk of gout increases after going through menopause.

People who have family members with a history of gout, are obese, and have certain medical conditions, such as kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, are also more likely to get gout. Taking certain medications that increase uric acid or having recently had surgery also heightens your risk.

Your lifestyle also is a potential risk factor. You’re more likely to get gout if you consume a diet heavy in seafood and meat, alcohol, and sugary drinks.

What you can do to prevent gout

Along with being painful and reducing your quality of life, untreated recurrences of gout can lead to complications, such as permanent damage to your toe joint. If you’re at an increased risk of developing gout or have previously experienced an episode of gout, you can take the following preventative steps.

Change your diet

Eliminate or only eat a small amount of seafood and red meat, which both have high levels of uric acid. Instead, get your protein from dairy products low in fat.

Limit the amount of alcohol you drink, especially beer, which has higher amounts of uric acid than other alcoholic beverages. Avoid or significantly restrict any other beverages sweetened with sugar.

Keep your body hydrated

Dehydration also contributes to gout flare-ups. Drink plenty of water and other non-sugary beverages.

Manage your weight

Obesity is a significant gout risk factor, so work to stay at a healthy size, or make lifestyle changes toward losing weight if you’re obese or overweight. Work on maintaining or developing a healthy diet and regular exercise routine.

Podiatry care helps you manage gout

If you’re in the middle of a gout flare-up or have a history of gout, Dr. Rambacher can help you find solutions. He can help you reduce pain during a gout episode, manage secondary issues that arise from gout (such as calluses and corns or joint damage), and prevent future flare-ups.

Relieve the discomfort and pain gout causes, and make sure you never experience gout again by making an appointment with Podiatry Hotline Foot and Ankle in Mission Viejo, CA. You can schedule your appointment online or by calling the office.

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