Many rheumatic conditions begin with mild, generic symptoms that make it hard to recognize you have a serious problem. Gout is different.
Gout is an inflammatory arthritis that appears suddenly, causing extreme swelling and severe pain in your big toe. And gout attacks often strike in the middle of the night.
At Pacific Rheumatology Medical Center, Behnam Khaleghi, MD, has helped many patients get relief from their symptoms and prevent future gout attacks. Here, he explains what causes gout and offers 10 steps you can take during a flare-up.
Why gout attacks occur
Gout occurs when you have too much uric acid in your bloodstream. Uric acid is a natural byproduct produced during the metabolism of purines, essential biochemicals needed for building DNA.
Your body normally eliminates uric acid in your urine. But when you have too much in your blood, the extra uric acid crystalizes. These crystals get stuck in joints, causing a condition called gout.
Gout most often affects the joint at the base of your big toe. However, the condition can develop in any joint, and in severe cases, the crystals can accumulate in soft tissues.
Here are 10 steps you can take to reduce the pain and duration of a gout attack:
1. Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Reducing inflammation is the fastest way to get some relief from your pain. Use an NSAID such as:
- Ibuprofen (Advil® and Motrin®)
- Naproxen (Aleve®, Naprosyn®, and Anaprox DS®)
- Celecoxib (Celebrex®)
Aspirin is an NSAID, but don’t use it for gout. It contains ingredients that aggravate the condition. Acetaminophen products (Tylenol®) relieve pain but they don’t reduce inflammation. Consult your physician before taking NSAIDs if you recently had a heart attack or have heart disease.
2. Use prescription medications
If this isn’t your first gout attack and you have prescription medications, take them immediately.
3. Apply ice
Placing ice on the inflamed area decreases inflammation. It also helps to elevate your foot higher than your chest.
Create an ice pack by putting crushed ice in a plastic bag (or use a bag of frozen vegetables). Wrap the ice in a cloth and place it on your toe several times daily for 20-30 minutes each time.
4. Avoid high-purine foods
High-purine foods introduce more uric acid into your bloodstream. Foods to avoid include:
- Beverages sweetened with fructose
- Organ meats (liver, kidneys)
- Red meat
- Meat gravy
You can prevent future gout attacks by continuing to avoid or limit these foods.
5. Don’t drink alcohol
Beer triggers gout and worsens symptoms because it’s high in purines. However, any type of alcohol — even in a moderate amount — significantly increases uric acid levels.
6. Consume dairy products
Dairy products such as low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese can help relieve your symptoms by promoting uric acid elimination.
7. Hydrate your body
Staying well-hydrated goes a long way toward flushing out excess uric acid. Drink at least eight cups of fluids daily, preferably choosing water and avoiding high-fructose sodas and fruit drinks.
8. Take anti-inflammatory supplements
Several supplements effectively ease inflammation, including turmeric, ginger, omega-3 fatty acids, and cannabidiol (CBD). However, not all supplements are equally effective.
Be sure you purchase products that have been verified by an independent lab. You can also connect with us. We provide medical-grade anti-inflammatory supplements in the office.
9. Stay calm and relax
Stress aggravates gout symptoms and triggers attacks. Try listening to relaxing music, practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation, or watching shows that keep your mind engaged.
10. See a doctor
Gout attacks recur, becoming more frequent and painful each time you have a flare-up. Without preventive care, the uric acid crystals turn into hard lumps that damage the joint and cause deformities.
We prescribe medications that ease your current symptoms and prevent future attacks. If you take other medications, we can review them and let you know if they contribute to gout.
Many people improve with a customized plan to change the lifestyle issues contributing to their gout. It’s also important to manage chronic diseases associated with gout attacks, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Don’t wait for the next gout attack to appear. Call Pacific Rheumatology or request an appointment online today.