The human body reacts to uric acid crystals as if they were a foreign body or bacteria. White blood cells and other infection fighting cells are sent into the area, which results in inflammatory reaction that can look just like an infection, causing the area to become red, swollen, hot, and very painful.
Acute gout attacks typically last from 3-10 days, and frequently involves the joint of the big toe. Gout can also affect smaller joints (like those in the fingers) as well as larger joints, like knees and hips. Tendon sheaths (which protect and provide nutrition to the tendons), bursae (fluid filled sacs that serve as a cushion between bone and soft tissue), and the kidneys (high uric acid levels can cause kidney stones and, in some instances, cause kidney damage) are all tissues that are affected by gout.
Treatment of gout tends to focus on preventing future attacks (via dietary changes as well as prescription medication, if deemed appropriate by your physician), relieving pain during acute attacks, and reducing the risk of developing tophi (chalky deposits that develop around joints and tendons that are caused by extended periods of high uric acid levels) and permanent joint damage. Individuals who do go on to develop destructive arthritis related to chronic gout may be helped with surgery via the removal of tophi, joint fusion, and/or joint replacement.
If gout is something that you’re dealing with, please know that we’re here to help, so give us a call to schedule an appointment! Remember, when properly treated – via treatment plans and lifestyle changes – many cases of gout will not progress to a debilitating, chronic state.