How can one small toe hurt so badly? As a pharmacist, this is a question I’m often asked by those who suffer from GOUT. When dealing with gout, it feels as though all the pain in the world is concentrated in that one little toe. Living with gout can be a daunting experience – so travelers with gout need to be extra vigilant to ensure their vacation time isn’t compromised by pain. Gout and travel bring a new set of concerns that must be dealt with daily. Here is the information you need to cross the misery of gout off of your travel to-do list!
Few words are more capable of striking fear into a traveler than “GOUT FLARE”. Imagine feeling as though you have ground glass in your joints with every step you take? The pain of gout can bring a grown man to tears and seriously hamper a good vacation. Here are ways to keep gout out of your life as well as treatment options for minimizing the down-time if an attack occurs while you’re traveling.
What is gout?
Gout is a type of arthritis in which a crystallized form of uric acid builds up in the joints if the kidneys become overloaded and cannot filter it from the blood. Uric acid is produced in the body when it breaks down a naturally found substance called purines. Gout can be triggered by certain foods (like seafood, fatty meats, and alcohol), certain medications (diuretics, aspirin), obesity or stress. It occurs most often in the joint of the big toe, but can affect any major joint in the body. The pain level generally increases very quickly and soon the affected joint is swollen, warm to the touch, and tender. Because the pain can be so severe, you may also feel as though you have flu-like symptoms of fever, chills, and body aches. This can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Definitely NOT the way anyone wants to spend precious vacation time.
How is gout treated?
Non-drug methods include paying attention to what triggers your gout to flare. If you know large amounts of alcohol cause pain, alternate a glass of water with every cocktail at the wedding reception. Seafood feasts and heavy steak dinners might have to be limited to ensure a pain-free visit. In fact, a healthy, low-fat diet may be one of the best ways to find welcome relief from gout pain. Drinking lots of water will also help flush the excess uric acid from your system.
Munching a big handful of cherries has shown to be effective in lowering gout attacks. More good news from the Arthritis Foundation™ is that drinking coffee – a lot of coffee! – four or more cups a day – can significantly decrease your risk of gout!
Over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium are very helpful in bringing down inflammation and easing joint pain. Avoid taking aspirin for pain relief during a flare as this may raise uric acid levels and make it worse.
Prescription treatment for gout works two ways: acute (immediate) treatment and prevention (prophylaxis). First, your doctor may prescribe medication to stop the pain immediately. This might be a short-term steroid dose-pack like methylprednisolone or prednisone that works by quickly bringing down the painful inflammation. Steroid shots directly into the affected joint may be required to ease the pain. Once the acute phase has passed, your doctor may prescribe allopurinol to help prevent further gout attacks from occurring. This medication works by decreasing the amount of uric acid the body makes.
So my best advice for full vacation enjoyment is to avoid (or enjoy in moderation) the things that might trigger a gout attack and if you’re prone to flares, be sure you have medicine on hand to treat the symptoms. Those vacation days are more valuable than gold! Take care.
Happy, Healthy Travels!
As with all medical conditions discussed on the Internet, check first with your doctor before using any alternative treatments.
More Travel Health Tips from The Travel Pharmacist HERE.
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