What goes along with Thanksgiving, football and beer? If you were going to say buffalo wings, you’re mistaken. Unfortunately for many of us, there are two answers: gout and turf toe.
The first is a painful buildup up uric acid in your joints that causes swelling and inflammation. And the second describes a sprained big toe joint. But both are pretty common after Thanksgiving and Super Bowl Sunday. Here's why.
What is Gout?
Gout is actually a type of arthritis. But, unlike other forms of foot arthritis, gout comes in flares. And they're triggered by built-up levels of uric acid in your body.
How do levels rise? Well, if your body can't get rid of uric acid, it forms crystals. (Often, they develop around your joints. And that leads to arthritis-like pain and other symptoms.)
Now, gout can impact any of your joints. But, most often, your podiatrist is the first person to diagnose a case of gout. And that's because symptoms typically become visible in the joint of your big toe. You may wake up in the middle of the night. With a bog toe that swells, turns red and experiences unbearable pain with even the slightest touch.
As I said at the start, I see a lot of gout cases after Thanksgiving and right after the Super Bowl. Why? On th big game day, much of the festivities involve beer drinking. And that's a problem. Because consuming alcohol forces your kidneys to focus on flushing the drink from your body. So it gets distracted from cleaning out the harmful uric acid.
By the way, beer’s not the only culprit. Other potential gout-triggers include purines. And those lurk in Thanksgiving turkey. Not to mention in those burgers or steaks you may be grilling on game day. Finally, the high fructose corn syrup so abundant in sodas can stimulate uric acid production, putting you even more at risk for a gout flare up. Especially when combined with other trigger foods.
Now, if you're at risk for gout, do yourself a favor and limit your meat, beer and soda consumption on game day and every day. Instead, grab a water bottle. Not only will you ingest lest calories, you'll boost your general health.
Gout Risk Factors
Of course, diet plays a role in your gout risk. But other conditions also increase your chances of developing a flare.
Your risk increases if you have thyroid or kidney problems, as well as certain blood conditions. You may also develop gout if your diabetes is poorly controlled. High blood pressure contributes to gout risk, as does certain blood cancers.
Being overweight raises your gout risk. Conditions such as psoriasis can also trigger gout flares. As do certain medications or treatments, including diuretics, chemo and radiation.
Treating Gout in Houston, TX
How we treat your gout depends on your symptoms and the cause of your flare. We can offer medication to manage acute pain. And some medications can prevent future flares.
But we'll also talk a lot about your lifestyle. Because you may need to lose weight to keep gout away. And, as I suggested before, you'll have to watch your diet.
So, now we've talked about one reason why your toe hurts after the holidays or game day. But why would turf toe be a problem on these days? Let's take a closer look.
What is Turf Toe?
This sports injury happens when you bend your big toe too far forward. It sprains the ligaments around your joint, and it also injures the joint that connects your toe to the rest of your foot.
Why do we call this injury turf toe? Well, it's most common for athletes who play on hard artificial surfaces like turf. Because, when your toe is down on this hard surface, forward pressure could cause overextension, since turf won't absorb shock. (See the illustration at right for a better idea of how you get into trouble.)
When I diagnose turf toe in my office, I give the injury a grade from 1 to 3. And I choose your treatment based on that grade.
If you have a grade 1, or minor injury, we can treat you with RICE and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories.
With a grade two injury, we'll have to keep weight off your toe. I'll fit you with a walking boot. And I may send you for an MRI, to make sure the damage only impacted your toe.
But what if you have a grade 3 turf toe injury? That's when things get serious. With this level of injury, I'll have to immobilize your foot completely for at least 8 weeks. And, in some cases, you'll even need surgery to fully recover.
Now, turf toe is most often a football injury. So, if you have a family game tradition on Thanksgiving, or throw a ball around on game day, you may be affected.
Turf Toe vs Gout
Of course, these causes of toe pain are very different. But they do have some common symptoms. These include sore, stiff joints, limits on toe mobility and a red or swollen toe.
With both, you may find some pain relief with OTC medications. And both can cause chronic pain. But that's where the similarities end.
Because, gout is an inside out injury (uric acid in your body triggers pain). But turf toe injuries come from external forces. So you can often manage gout with changes to your diet and lifestyle. But you'll need to immobilize and set your joint to recover from turf toe.
Clearly, these two toe problems have one important common factor. They hurt! So, if you wake up one morning with a red, swollen toe, don’t delay. Call Dr. Andrew Schneider immediately. We'll figure out what's causing your big toe pain. And we'll get your symptoms under control so you can focus on healing.