Gout, which is a form of arthritis, is caused by the build-up of uric acid crystals in the joints. Uric acid is formed when your body breaks down purines, which are naturally found in the body and in certain foods. Medications are used to treat current gout attacks as well as to prevent future attacks. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the first gout attack commonly occurs in the big toe. Symptoms of a gout attack can occur suddenly and without any warning.
The affected foot joint can appear red and swollen. The skin over the joint can feel warm to the touch. This condition can affect one or more joints at once. If a person has had gout for many years, he can develop lumps or nodules under the skin around the joints. This deformity, referred to as tophi, is caused by a deposit of uric acid crystals. Tophi are normally painless, but can become tender and swollen during a gout attack. These lumps can break open and drain a chalky material.
According to the Mayo Clinic, pain associated with gout is generally most severe within the first 12 to 24 hours after it begins. The pain is greater when the affected area is touched or moved and even light pressure--such as that of a sheet covering the feet--is intolerable. The pain is described as sharp, crushing, throbbing, excruciating or intense. You may also notice the affected joint feels stiff. The discomfort can linger for days to weeks. Gout attacks past the initial attack can last longer and affect more joints.
Symptoms usually start at night and can wake you from sleep. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, early gout attacks subside within three to 10 days. More than half of the people who have had at least one gout attack will have another one.
According to the third edition of the textbook "Introduction to Medical-Surgical Nursing," about 20 per cent of patients with gout develop kidney stones due to a build-up of uric acid crystals in the kidneys.
- MayoClinic.com: Gout
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: What is Gout?
- "Introduction to Medical-Surgical Nursing: Third Edition"; Adrianne Dill Linton, PhD RN & Nancy K. Maebius, PhD RN; 2003