Symptoms of thumb gout include redness and swelling, pain in and around the thumb joint and an increase in temperature over the affected area. Though these symptoms can mimic other medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, these conditions typically will not cause uric acid levels in the blood to rise, as is common in gout. Other thumb gout symptoms include joint stiffness and decreased joint mobility.
Gout occurs when uric acid crystals are deposited around a joint. Thumb gout is common; however, its not as common as gout that affects the big toe. Other joints that can be affected by gout include those in the elbows, wrists, ankles and knees. Gout can also affect the insteps of the feet and the heels. Small lumps under the skin are also symptoms of thumb gout, and are referred to as tophi, or uric acid deposits.
In addition to contributing to thumb gout, elevated levels of uric acid can also contribute to kidney stones and renal insufficiency. Causes of gout include consuming a diet high in substances known as purines, being overweight, being male and excessive alcohol consumption. A family history of gout and kidney problems can also contribute to gout.
Certain medical conditions can also cause levels of serum uric acid to rise. These conditions include hypothyroidism, or an under active thyroid, hypertension and certain auto-immune diseases such as psoriasis. Medications can also cause elevations in uric acids levels which can contribute to gout as well. These medications include aspirin, medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease, diuretics, or “water pills” and niacin, a vitamin.
Treating gout is done by employing a number of different therapies. The most common of these therapies is the use of anti-inflammatory medications. These medications include ibuprofen and aspirin and are very effective in reducing inflammation and pain. They are ineffective in reducing levels of uric acid, however. Corticosteroids are also used to treat inflammation and pain, but like anti-inflammatory medications, they do not lower serum uric acid levels.
Oral medications that reduce uric acid levels are often prescribed in combination with avoiding foods that are high in purines. Thumb gout also responds well to cortisone injections delivered directly into the joint. The effects of cortisone injections are not immediately noticed, and can sometimes take weeks to get results. It is important to keep all scheduled medical visits so that the health care provider can monitor and evaluate treatment progress.
Sources: National Institutes of Health