Gout is a form of arthritis, and it can often cause pain in the feet. There are approximately one million Americans who suffer from this condition, and although its source is a systemic problem within the body, there are some suggestions for how to treat gout that may reduce your chances of having a flare-up of gout.
Nearly all people with gout have too much uric acid in their blood. Uric acid is normally formed when the body breaks down waste products called purines; the uric acid is dissolved in the blood, passes through the kidneys, and is excreted in the urine. However, if the body makes too much uric acid or if the kidneys are not able to get rid of it fast enough, high levels can accumulate in the blood.
Gout generally occurs when the uric-acid level in the blood is so high that crystals of uric acid are deposited in the joints, and the lining of the joints (called the synovium) becomes inflamed.
Gout attacks tend to be sudden and painful and can affect joints throughout the body. Gout tends to affect only one joint at a time, however, and appears most often in the first joint of the big toe.
Heredity may play a role in gout. Taking diuretics, or "water pills," often causes high blood levels of uric acid, because these drugs interfere with the kidneys' ability to remove uric acid. Obesity, overindulgence in alcohol, and eating foods that may raise uric-acid levels (such as brains, kidneys, liver, and sweetbreads) have also been linked to high blood levels of uric acid.
If you suffer an attack of gout, a doctor can prescribe medicine to reduce the swelling and pain. Even if untreated, attacks tend to recede in five to ten days. However, repeated attacks can cause lasting joint damage, so if you suspect you have gout, see a doctor.
To help prevent gout attacks:
Avoid drinking too much alcohol.
Talk to your doctor about avoiding certain foods.
Get your weight under control using a sensible weight-loss program. Avoid crash diets, because they can increase uric-acid levels.
- Drink at least 10 to 12 eight-ounce glasses of water or other nonalcoholic fluid each day to help your body remove uric acid.
Cramps are another painful foot condition that may come about suddenly. Continue to the next page to learn about first aid for foot cramps.
To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:
- Everyday Foot Problems: Discover what causes some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
- How to Care for Your Feet:
Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with
these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right