Uric Acid: The Substance behind a Gout Attack

Most of us are aware that the human body contains many different acids – for example, fatty acids, amino acids, and those unpopular stomach acids that cause heartburn and reflux. There’s another acid in our bodies that doesn’t roll off our tongue as easily. We don’t talk much about uric acid. Problems with the levels of uric acid in your body are the cause behind the common and very painful condition called gout.

Too much uric acid

Some people just naturally have a high level of uric acid in their systems, or they take medication that affects their levels. Certain foods contain substances called purines, which your body metabolizes into uric acid. But uric acid is actually a waste product. If your levels are naturally very high or if you eat too many purine-rich foods, your kidneys may be faced with more uric acid than they can handle. If your kidneys are not breaking down uric acid and you are not eliminating it via urination, then it hangs around in your body, often in your joints.

Why your big toe hurts

Many of our patients at Foot & Ankle Associates of Cleveland contact us with excruciating pain in their big toe. With a first symptom like that, Dr. Megan L. Oltmann and Dr. Craig B. Frey – the podiatrists at our office in Solon, OH – will immediately suspect that these patients have gout. Why? Because uric acid often settles in the form of crystals in the joint of your big toe, causing a sudden onset of intense pain, burning, throbbing, and tenderness.

Managing uric acid levels

The key to managing gout is to control the level of uric acid in your bloodstream. Dr. Frey and Dr. Oltmann offer these tips:

  • Drink lots of water
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
  • Restrict the number of times you eat red meat every week
  • Studies have suggested that drinking coffee, eating cherries, and supplementing your diet with Vitamin C all help to keep your levels of uric acid in check.

Fortunately, the intense pain of a gout attack usually subsides within a matter of hours. But if you don’t take steps to prevent gout from recurring, you risk damaging your toe joint permanently. Take steps to prevent gout, but if you do have sudden pain in your toe, visit the foot professionals of Cuyahoga County as soon as possible. Call us at (440) 903-1041 or make an appointment online.