Gout – What’s it all about?

It has been called “The Disease of Kings” or “The Rich Man’s Disease.”  Gout has certainly made its mark on history.  Benjamin Frankin, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Thomas Jefferson all famously suffered from it.  According to Wikipedia.org, the first documentation of the disease is from Egypt in 2,600 BC.  Don’t be fooled though – gout is still alive and well and continues to be a very painful, recurring condition for 1%-2% of the Western population. 

What is gout?

Gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid in the joints that eventually forms sharp crystals that collect around the joints (especially in the ball of the foot and big toe).  It is a form of acute arthritis and causes inflammation and painful episodes that can last a few days to a few weeks.

What causes gout?

Gout has both genetic and lifestyle causes.  It is frequently attributed to diets rich in alcohol, meat and seafood, and/or being overweight.  Physical trauma can also set it off.   There are some specific medicines that can increase your odds of getting gout, such as diuretics, aspirin and some cancer drugs.

Gout Symptoms

The picture at the top of this post is a 1799 artist’s rendition of the pain caused by gout.  Basically, a gout attack is hard to ignore.  The joint pain is often first felt at night when you are at rest and your body’s temperature is slightly lower than normal.  First signs of gout include inflammation, swelling, tenderness and pain (mostly occurring in the great toe of the foot).  Sometimes the pain can be accompanied by fever and less than normal concentrated urine output.  If you suspect you have gout, you should seek medical treatment.

Gout Treatments

Rest and ice are recommended to treat an acute gout attack.  Applying ice to the tender joint for 20-30 minutes several times a day will help reduce swelling and pain.  If possible, staying off your feet and keeping the injured foot elevated is also recommended. 

Lifestyle changes can prevent further outbreaks of gout, including: consuming a low calorie diet, adequate vitamin C, drinking more water, avoiding red meat, seafood, alcohol and sugar.  There are also medications for gout, which can reduce uric acid in the blood and prevent recurrences.

What else should I know about gout?

·      Gout affects 9 times as many men as women. 

·      Both men and women over the age of 45 can get it.

·      Gout affects the foot most often, but can also affect joints in the leg, knee, ankle, foot, hand, wrist and elbow.

·      60% of first time gout sufferers will have a second attack within a year.

Best shoes for someone with gout?

People suffering from gout need to be sure to wear shoes that fit correctly; the shoes should be wide enough and deep enough to accommodate any swelling that might occur.  The individual should also make sure that his footwear has arch support and metatarsal support – both of which help reduce the strain on the ball of the foot.  Often, this means fitting a shoe with an over-the-counter arch support.  An adjustable sandal, such as a Birkenstock, often works well because the support is built into the footbed of the shoe - the straps are usually adjustable and therefore work well for a foot that tends to swell.

Shoes with forefoot rockers (shoes that do not flex at the ball of the foot) can also greatly help reduce the pain associated with gout.  When walking in a forefoot rocker, the movement in the metatarsal joints is reduced causing less strain to be placed on the ball of the foot as well as the toes.  Check to see if the front of your shoe bends easily; if it does – avoid wearing that shoe.

Some good options for shoes include:

Cogent

Ryn

Birkenstock – Milano or Arizona

Finn Comfort – Sylt or Jamaika

Naot – Lappland or Flow

New Balance – 1123 or 927

Brooks – Ariel and Beast

Haflinger – Grizzly clogs

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