Gout is a type of arthritis that affects men more than women and causes sudden severe joint pain. It usually starts in the big toe, but other joints can be affected such as the ankle, knee or foot.

What is gout and what causes it?

Gout is caused by an imbalance of uric acid in the body resulting in a build-up of uric acid in the blood. When there are high levels of uric acid in the blood, small urate crystals form which collect in and around the joint, causing irritation, inflammation and severe pain.

Is it serious?

Apart from the severe pain that gout causes, gout can also be responsible for kidney damage caused by crystals forming to create kidney stones which are notorious for being extremely painful to pass.

Who gets it?

One in 200 people is affected by gout. It commonly affects men rather then women, especially as they get older, but can run in families too.

How do I know I have it?

The main symptom of gout is waking up in the middle of the night with an acute throbbing pain in the big toe, which is swollen, then doesn’t return for a few months. 

How do I prevent it?

You can reduce your chances of developing gout by leading a healthy lifestyle including:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating a healthy diet including what you drink (ie avoiding too much alcohol and fizzy drinks)

  • Making sure there is plenty of Vitamin C in your diet

What are the treatments?

Gout can be controlled and regulated with anti-inflammatory drugs, which your GP will be able to prescribe, and these will alleviate the attack over 24 hours or so.  An immediate measure to an acute attack is to levitate your leg to help reduce swelling and apply ice or cooling lotions while waiting for your medication to take effect.

Your local podiatrist will also be able to help alleviate issues by adapting your existing footwear with orthoses or other appliances which fit easily into your shoes and help redistribute pressure away from the affected parts.

Made-to-measure shoes can also be prescribed: your podiatrist will be able to advise you on the correct type of shoes to wear and where to obtain them. They can also provide protective shields for your toes or padding to relieve pressure and reduce friction. Any secondary problems like ulcers or corns can also be treated. They can also refer you to a specialist for more serious cases.

When should I see a podiatrist?

If you experience any foot care issues which do not resolve themselves naturally or through routine foot care within three weeks, you should seek the help of a healthcare professional.

To talk to a podiatrist (also known as a chiropodist) about the options available regarding treatment, you can contact an NHS podiatrist or a private practice podiatrist. In both cases, always ensure that any practitioners you visit are registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and describe themselves as a podiatrist (or chiropodist).

Specialist teams of rheumatologists, podiatrists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, along with specialist nurses, will provide the most effective care and treatment for patients with arthritis, especially those with rheumatoid arthritis.

To contact an NHS podiatrist, please contact your GP practice for information on an NHS referral (in some areas you can self-refer).

To see a private practice podiatrist, use our search Find A Podiatrist.