Now that the holiday season is in full swing, the added stress and non-gout-friendly foods that are characteristic of the season can increase your chances of having a gout flare. Even if it’s been years since your last flare, you may still be at risk for the painful discomfort that a gout flare can produce. But if you know what to do when a flare occurs, you’ll be in a much better position to manage your symptoms and ease your suffering!
Why Gout Flares Happen
A gout flare occurs when a person with higher than normal levels of uric acid in the body has a buildup of uric acid around a joint – most commonly, the big toe joint. Crystals form in the joint, causing pain, tenderness, and inflammation. Some of the most common factors that can increase uric acid levels and make a gout attack more likely, include:
- high-fat or high-purine foods,
- stress, and
- some medications.
Some people with gout have reported a burning, itching, or tingling feeling in a joint a few hours prior to a gout flare-up. There may also be stiffness or soreness in the big toe joint. Soon after, the telltale signs of gout appear – redness, swelling, and severe pain, usually in the big toe. Sometimes, there are no early warning signs of a gout attack. Many gout sufferers are simply woken up in the middle of the night with a painful, inflamed big toe joint.
How to Treat A Gout Flare
There are a number of ways to get relief from a painful gout attack and reduce the amount of time that a gout attack lasts, including:
- Ditch footwear – Socks and shoes can be unbearably painful during a gout flare, so keep the foot and lower part of the leg bare to reduce added pain.
- Rest – Avoid activity or walking around during a flare. Lie down and elevate the joint on a pillow or other soft object.
- Try ice packs / cold compresses – To reduce inflammation and ease pain, apply an ice pack or cold compress to the joint for 20 to 30 minutes several times a day.
- Avoid high-purine foods and alcohol – High-purine foods (e.g., some seafood, organ meats, and fatty foods) and alcoholic beverages (especially beer) can aggravate a gout attack, so avoid them completely.
- Drink plenty of water – Drinking enough water can help flush the uric acid crystals out of your body.
- Try OTC pain meds – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be taken to help alleviate gout pain.
- Wait it out – Most gout attacks will go away within a few days. Sometimes a little rest and patience is all that’s needed to get relief.
- Talk with your doctor – If you feel like your gout is not under control, be sure to talk to your healthcare professional about ways to reduce gout attacks. Your doctor may even recommend gout-specific medications to prevent future gout flares.