Is Your Lifestyle Affecting Your Gout Symptoms?

Gout is a relatively common form of inflammatory arthritis that can cause very painful and immobilizing symptoms without warning. 

The symptoms that typically occur are often accompanied by excruciating foot pain and swelling so intense that Hippocrates referred to gout as “the unwalkable disease” because of its immobilizing effects. 

Gout develops when too much uric acid collects in your blood, causing a condition called hyperuricemia. Uric acid forms when your body processes purines, a substance found in many types of food. Typically, uric acid gets broken down and eliminated through your kidneys. 

When too much uric acid accumulates or the kidneys can’t properly process it, the substance can form into sharp, needle-like crystals around your joints. Since uric acid is very sensitive to temperature changes, crystallization is more likely to occur at cooler temperatures. 

While gout can affect any joint, it often affects your big toe, which is typically the coolest part of your body since it’s the joint farthest from your heart.

Jeremy Moran, DPM, provides professional gout diagnosis and treatment at his private practice, ToeOp, in Tomball, Texas. After a complete physical examination and medical history, Dr. Moran determines the source of your pain and swelling and develops a treatment plan to relieve gout symptoms and reduce your risk of future attacks. 

With proper care, gout is a very treatable condition. While you can’t change a genetic disposition to the disease, you can reduce uric acid levels and lower your risk of gout attacks by making these lifestyle changes: 

Establish and maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for gout attacks. When you eat more food, you produce more uric acid. 

In a study of 14,000 American adults, researchers reported that people who were overweight according to body mass index (BMI) had an 85% higher risk of developing elevated uric acid levels than people who had a normal BMI. Data from the study indicated that excess weight alone accounted for 44% of the hyperuricemia cases in those studied. 

The findings supported other research that identified being overweight as a modifiable risk factor associated with the onset of gout.

Discuss alternatives to diuretics for high blood pressure

Diuretics are medications that increase the amount of water and salt that your body releases through urine. These medications, sometimes called water pills, are often used to treat high blood pressure because they lower the total volume of blood in your blood vessels. The effect decreases the pressure exerted inside the vessels. 

While diuretics can be effective in helping to control high blood pressure, having less fluid in your body can make it more difficult to dissolve uric acid. If you have a high risk for gout attacks, ask your doctor about changing your blood pressure medication to one that doesn’t involve a diuretic.

Discontinuing or reducing your high blood pressure medication without medical guidance can result in life-threatening consequences. Speak with your primary care physician or cardiologist before changing your existing high blood pressure treatment plan.

Limit alcohol consumption

Alcoholic beverages contain high levels of purines, the substances that your body turns into uric acids. Consuming high amounts of alcohol increases the amount of uric acid in your body, which elevates your risk of a gout attack. 

Of all alcoholic beverages, beer may present the greatest threat of gout since it is produced with brewer’s yeast, a substance that has very high levels of purines.

Alcoholic beverages can also cause dehydration, which reduces urine output and can interfere with the efficient removal of uric acid from your body. Drinking plenty of water helps to offset the threat of dehydration.

Change your diet

If your diet includes many high-purine foods, you may be increasing your risk of experiencing gout symptoms. Avoid the following foods to help improve your chances of preventing a gout attack:

At the same time, increasing your intake of the following foods may also help to limit gout symptoms:

Together, these dietary changes can reduce the amount of uric acid that your body has to metabolize, thereby reducing your risk of a gout attack.

Learn more about ways to modify your lifestyle to reduce your gout symptoms. Contact us today to schedule an appointment at ToeOp.

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