Is There a Difference Between Arthritis and Gout?

May is Arthritis Awareness Month. Dr. Craig B. Frey and Dr. Megan L. Oltmann want to focus on how we can help our Cuyahoga, Portage, Geauga, and Summit county patients ease the pain of a unique form of arthritis called gout. What makes gout unusual is how it differs from other forms of arthritis.

Arthritis in general terms

The term “arthritis” refers to any kind of inflammation in a joint. Joints are the places in your body where two bones meet. If bones met with nothing in between to protect them, they would just be two rough objects rubbing together. So we’re fortunate that our joints are equipped with lining, protective cartilage, and synovial fluid that make movement smooth and pain-free.

However, sometimes the joint becomes inflamed. Inflammation comes about for a number of reasons. For example, cartilage can get damaged through injury or it can wear down with age; synovial fluid can leak out; infection can set in. An inflamed joint causes pain and stiffness.

The gout difference
Joint inflammation that’s caused by a buildup of uric acid we call gout, or gouty arthritis. It’s normal to have uric acid in our bloodstream, but sometimes there’s too much of it. When that happens, it likes to settle in a joint in a crystallized form. Sharp uric acid crystals are especially fond of settling in the big toe.

Gout is more prevalent in women than in men. It can be an inherited condition. People with other forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis, are more prone to having gout. Finally, a diet rich in certain foods, such as shellfish and alcohol, can cause high levels of uric acid and bring about a gout attack.

Here’s what a gout attack in your toe looks like:

  • pain and swelling of the toe joint
  • the joint is very tender to the touch
  • burning and throbbing
  • symptoms come on suddenly, last for several hours, then subside
  • an attack may take several days or more to go away completely

If the pain of gout whams you in the big toe, contact Foot & Ankle Associates of Cleveland online or call our Solon, Ohio office at (440) 903-1041. We can offer you medications to ease the pain and dietary advice to minimize the chances of a repeat attack.