For those dealing with gout, although it may not make things any easier, you should know that you are not alone. According to GoutEducation.org, the disease affects approximately 8.3 million Americans. If you are in South Georgia, there is an extremely reliable facility in the Valdosta Foot and Ankle Clinic that assists patients in their treatment. Heading the clinic is Dr. Michael Wallace, and Health-Life Magazine was fortunate enough to speak with him to get a little more information about gout and how to deal with it.
Q: When was the Valdosta Foot and Ankle Clinic established?
A: Valdosta Foot and Ankle Clinic was established in 1989 and has been in Valdosta for 26 years.
Q: What exactly is gout?
A: Gout is an arthritic disease characterized by abnormal metabolism of uric acid. Uric acid is overproduced, or sometimes excreted. Gout is extremely painful in the joint that is affected. Needle-sharp uric acid crystals build up in the joint or surrounding tissues and cause pain, redness, inflammation, and swelling. The big toe joint is the most common joint affected; however, it can also attack the feet, ankles, knees, and hands.
Q: Whom does gout typically affect, and what does a typical attack entail?
A: Men are more susceptible to gout attacks, but menopausal women are also affected. A gout attack often occurs suddenly, waking you up in the middle of the night with sharp pain in the big toe joint.
Q: Are there typical causes or habits that can lead to gout (such as diet, exercise/lack of exercise, etc.)?
A: Your body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines in the body. Certain foods are rich in purines, such as meat, organic meats, pork, and seafood (especially shellfish). Alcohol and drinks sweetened with fruit sugar also promote higher levels of uric acid.
Obesity, hypertension, heart and kidney disease, and diabetes make you more susceptible to gout. Having a family history of gout also makes you more likely to develop the disease.
Q: How is gout treated?
A: Treatment usually includes medication and lifestyle changes. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as indomethacin and colchicine are often used to treat the initial flare of gout. Corticosteroid medication such as prednisone can also treat the pain and inflammation. Drugs like Allopurinol and Uloric limit the amount of uric acid that your body makes.
Some patients are well treated and their gout never recurs; others are less fortunate and continue to have gout flares unless they take their medication and maintain a strict diet. Limiting alcoholic beverages, especially beer, avoiding foods high in purines, such as red meat and shellfish, and regular exercise to decrease weight gain can help patients decrease the incidence of gout.
Dr. Michael Wallace is Board Certified in Foot Surgery (since 1995). He has triplet sons who attend the University of Georgia and a daughter who is a senior at Valdosta High School.
Dr. Michael Wallace
Valdosta Foot and Ankle Clinic
Gout: A Real Pain in the Foot
Q & A: Dr. Michael Wallace, DPM, FACFAS
By James Washington
Photographer: Sarah Turner