Gout can cause a burning sensation in your toe or any joint that it has affected. The most common joint to be affected by gout is the joint between your big toe and your foot. The usual first attack will wake you up at night with the feeling that your big toe is on fire.
The painful burning sensation is caused by a build up of uric acid in your blood. As the uric acid levels increase, deposits of uric acid crystals are left in the joints. It is thought the feet are more prone to attack because of their decreased temperature, as compared to the rest of the body.
Suffice it to say the burning sensation is very unpleasant. In fact, the burning and pain can be so intense that bed covers, a sock, or any pressure on the foot is unbearable. Typically, the pain starts suddenly, and increases dramatically before slowly subsiding. Symptomatic relief is necessary until you can get in to see your doctor.
The good news is, there are medications that can help with the relief of symptoms. These medications are also important to decrease the levels of uric acid in the blood to prevent further attacks of gout. Prevention of future attacks is the goal, as well as joint preservation.
In addition to the burning sensation in your toe or affected joint, you may also notice redness and swelling. You might also run a fever with an attack. An ice pack will help the swelling to decrease. You can also take an NSAID to help relieve the discomfort. Do not take aspirin with out talking with your doctor, as this will actually increase the uric acid in your system.
If you are on low level aspirin therapy, be sure to continue your medication until you can talk with the prescribing physician. This may well be a balancing act between the aspirin and the gout medication to keep all factors under control. This is not a situation that you can handle without medical advice.
By the time you have an attack of gout, uric acid has been building up in your blood for some time. In addition to medication, there are some life style changes that you can do to decrease your risk of another attack of gout. If you are overweight, losing weight will help.
If you drink alcohol, keep your intake to one drink per day or less. Be sure to discuss your gout will all your physicians. You might not think to discuss your gout with your cardiologist, since you see your podiatrist for your gout. But all your medications can interact and effect the over all outcome of your treatment.
It is important that, as the burning sensation and swelling decrease, you don’t ignore your treatment for gout. It is manageable if you follow your doctor’s advice and stay on your medication and moderate your life style as needed.
If gout is left untreated, the attacks can become more frequent and tophi (gritty nodules of uric acid) crystals can build up in the joints. This can cause deformity in the joints and can require surgery to relieve the pain and return joint function. Tophi can also develop outside of joints, and usually affect the ears, hands or elbows.
The big toe is the most common site for gout to affect, but any joint in the feet, hands, knees, elbows, ankles, and wrist are susceptible. With the aid of medication many people will only have one gout attack in their whole lives.
Ray Province, M.A., ACMPE
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