When you think of foot doctors, you think about broken bones, torn ligaments or tendons, and pulled muscles, so why would we discuss an internal disease like gout? Because the main body part affected is your big toe, and because it can be severely painful, and we want to do everything we can to keep your feet from hurting.
Why Does My Big Toe Hurt So Badly?
Gout is a form of arthritis. Instead of damaging the cartilage and lining of your joints, this disease involves a buildup of uric acid in your blood. The excess acid forms urate crystals, and these tiny, sharp formations accumulate in the joint where the big toe joins your foot. As the crystals poke and prod the tissue during movement, it becomes irritated and inflammation sets in. Pain from the slightest bump, weight, or movement can be excruciating—like being poked with hot needles.
Where Does the Uric Acid Come From?
When your body breaks down substances called purines, it produces uric acid. Purines occur naturally in your body and also in certain foods you consume. A certain level of this acid in your blood is normal, but the excess is normally filtered out by your kidneys and passed out in your urine. With this disease, your body either makes too much of this acid, or can’t remove the extra out of your blood as it should.
What Increases My Chance of Getting Gout?
Your diet plays a big role. Foods such as steak, seafood, organ meats, and drinks containing alcohol or high fructose sugars can up the risk. Beer is especially problematic, so if you are prone to painful attacks, you will want to limit your consumption of this beverage.
Actual foods can cause problems, but so can eating too much, which leads to weight gain. Obese people produce more uric acid and it is harder for them to eliminate the excess, too. If weight control is a problem for you, seek help to manage it. You’ll feel better, remove overall stress on your feet and ankles, and reduce your risk of a painful gout attack.
Certain medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart trouble, or kidney disease increase your likelihood of having this condition, as well as some types of medication. Your risk increases if others in your family have had problems with the disease, if you are a man, or if you are an older woman. Some people develop kidney stones as a result of urate crystals in the urinary tract, which can also be very painful.
What Can I Do for Painful Gout Attack?
For severe cases, you may need to take one of several medications for pain. They include NSAID drugs, colchicine, and corticosteroids like prednisone, some of which have unpleasant or dangerous side effects.
If you have recurring attacks, there are drugs that can head off future attacks by inhibiting your body from producing uric acid, and others that help your body get rid of it better.
If you hesitate to use powerful or risky medications, there are self-care remedies you can try that may prevent the symptoms from occurring. Start with limiting your alcohol intake and sugary drinks, and increasing the amount of plain water you drink. Then, avoid red meats and seafood and concentrate on other forms of protein that don’t carry as much risk. Finally, keep your weight under control by eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise.
Dr. Matthew Paden, Dr. Brett D. Sachs, and Dr. Dustin Kruse of Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center are experienced podiatrists and foot surgeons who can treat any foot problem you have. If gout is a recurring issue for you, call our office in Golden or Wheat Ridge, CO, at (303) 423-2520 and set up an appointment for an evaluation. We can help your find the answer for your big toe pain.
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