Stereotypical presentations in popular culture of someone who suffers from gout usually depict a large, overweight, middle-aged man with one foot wrapped in a cast. From a broad perspective, that’s pretty accurate; you’re more likely to get gout if you’re man, postmenopausal woman, or are middle-aged.
But gout is a form of arthritis that can affect more than the joint of your big toe. And while being a man who eats rich foods is a risk factor for gout, you can get it no matter what your economic class or gender.
Our expert rheumatologists at the Rheumatology Center of New Jersey diagnose and treat all forms of arthritis and joint pain, including gout. Here’s what you need to know about this misunderstood form of arthritis.
Gout is selective
If you have rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, chances are you feel pain and stiffness in multiple joints. In fact, it’s not unusual for all of your joints to be inflamed and impaired.
But gout is different. Gout is a form of arthritis that occurs when your body contains too much uric acid. The excess uric acid collects in one or more joints and solidifies into crystals. The crystals are sharp and painful, causing needle-like jabs of pain in affected joints.
The only good news about gout is that the uric acid crystals — for reasons unknown — tend to accumulate in just one joint at a time. Usually, that’s the big toe. But you can also get gout in your:
- Other toe joints
When you have gout, you may experience sharp and excruciating pain in the afflicted joint. The joint may also be red, swollen, and hot.
Gout is no laughing matter
Gout is often used to comically depict a character’s frailty or privilege. In the 2018 film “The Favourite,” Olivia Coleman’s Queen Anne is confined to a wheelchair and subjected to bizarre raw meat treatments for her gout.
More than 100 years previously, a villain in a short 1917 Charlie Chaplin film called “The Cure” got his gout-ridden foot caught in a revolving door.
But gout is excruciatingly painful and not funny at all when you suffer an attack. Gout also doesn’t limit itself to afflicting the rich. In fact, the foods that make up the standard American diet are filled with a substance called purines, which can cause excess uric acid to build up in your body.
Do you have gout?
If you have one or more painful, swollen, hot joints from your knee down to your toes, you could have gout. You’re more likely to develop gout if you eat a diet rich in purines. Foods that contain excessive purines include:
- Red meat
- Organ meats
Cutting out purine-rich foods and replacing them with fresh vegetables and fruits may reduce the pain of gout and prevent flares. Consider filling at least half of your plate with fresh vegetables and fruits at every meal.
Drinking plenty of water each day also helps wash away excess uric acid and prevents it from collecting in your joints.
Get help with gout
Left untreated, gout can destroy your joints. If you have chronically high levels of uric acid in your body, you’re also at risk for trophi (hard mineral deposits under your skin) and kidney stones. In fact, untreated gout raises your risk for serious conditions, including:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Dry eye
- Labored breathing
Because gout may mimic other inflammatory diseases, the first step toward controlling your gout starts with a definitive diagnosis.
Once we determine the source of your joint pain, we design a treatment and management plan that may include dietary changes as well as anti-inflammatory medications to treat gout flares.
If you suspect your painful joint is the result of gout or another form of arthritis, call us for a consultation today. You may also request an appointment using our online tool. Our offices are located in Somerville, Flemington, and Monroe, New Jersey.