When your body breaks down the naturally occurring chemical purine, you produce uric acid. Under normal circumstances, the excess uric acid dissolves in your bloodstream, passes through your kidneys, then exits through your urine.
But when that process doesn’t work as designed, uric acid builds up, crystalizes, and settles in your joints — most frequently in the joint of your big toe. And those sharp shards of crystalized uric acid cause intense pain, inflammation, redness, stiffness, and sensitivity to temperature changes. We call this condition gout.
We see a lot of gout here at Dan Preece, DPM, and Darren Groberg, DPM, a branch of Utah Musculoskeletal Specialists in Salt Lake City, Utah. Gout is a common form of arthritis, and like other types of arthritis, it’s not curable. However, gout is highly treatable, and the relief begins with you.
Here, our team takes a closer look at the risk factors for gout so you can make some lifestyle changes and get the medical help you need.
If you eat lots of purine-rich foods, it puts you at risk for gout and exacerbates your symptoms if you already have it.
Changing your diet to exclude foods that are high in purines, such as scallops, mussels, tuna, sardines, and anchovies can reduce your symptoms, as can cutting back on beer and fruit juices that contain fructose.
Being overweight affects all your body’s systems and causes them to work harder to do their jobs. If you’re significantly overweight or obese, you produce more uric acid than people at a healthy weight, and your kidneys have to kick into overdrive to process it. The inevitable result is that you end up with excess uric acid in your system, and it travels to your joints and crystalizes.
3. Medical conditions
If your health is compromised, it can affect other areas of your body, and gout is often the result. Specifically, if you suffer from diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, kidney disease, or metabolic syndrome, you're at high risk for gout, too.
4. Surgeries and vaccinations
If you’re prone to higher levels of uric acid and undergo surgery, studies show that the procedure can increase the amount of uric acid and trigger a postsurgical gout flare. But surgery isn’t the only culprit — even a routine injection, such as a flu shot or other vaccination, can set off a gout attack.
5. Certain medications and supplements
Some medications are known to increase the level of uric acid in your body, so while they may help address one condition, they can trigger gout, as well. Some of the most common medications that put you at risk for gout are:
- Hypertension medications
- Beta blockers
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Anti-rejection drugs for organ transplant recipients
- Chemotherapy drugs
If you’re taking any of these medications, talk to our team to find out if there’s an alternative that can address your medical condition without triggering gout.
If you’re undergoing testosterone replacement therapy, it may increase your chance of getting gout. Studies show that the increased testosterone elevates your uric acid levels and decreases your kidneys’ ability to excrete it.
Chronic stress and the hormones it produces, such as cortisol and adrenaline, put your body on high alert, which, over time, affects each system’s ability to function properly. One of the consequences of constant stress is an elevated uric acid level, and gout typically follows.
7. Age and sex
Women tend to have lower uric acid levels than men, so men tend to get gout more frequently than women — typically between the ages of 30 and 50. But after menopause, women start producing more uric acid and catch up to their male counterparts.
Ignoring gout and hoping it will go away on its own will likely lead to complications, such as recurrent gout, tophi (nodules under the skin), and kidney stones.
Once we identify the underlying cause of your gout, we can help you address it, whether it’s your weight, a medical condition, or a drug-related issue.
We also help you manage your symptoms and flare-ups with pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications, and in some cases, we may recommend medications that block the production of uric acid.
To get relief from gout, call Dan Preece, DPM, and Darren Groberg, DPM, or book a consultation online.