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Gout vs Sprained Ankle: What's the difference?

 

For anyone who has been living with gout for any amount of time, the symptoms are unmistakable. Whether you are in a constant battle with your gout or experience symptoms only occasionally, the swelling and pain that goes with it can sometimes be outright unbearable. But for those who have never had a gout flare-up before, it can be difficult to know for sure what's happening.

In fact, gout is often misdiagnosed for other medical issues. It turns out that the symptoms of gout can often throw both patient and doctor off the scent, with some patients instead diagnosed with Pseudogot (a condition in which calcium forms crystals in the joints), infected joints (septic arthritis), rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis, bacterial skin infections, and even fractured or sprained joints!

So if you've been experiencing pain in your ankle, how do you know whether it is gout or a sprained ankle? Let's find out. But first of all, let’s take a closer look at the causes and symptoms of gout.

What is Gout?

Gout is a rheumatic condition that can affect joints throughout the body - though it is most common in the feet and the big toe. It is caused by a build-up of uric acid in the blood which is usually filtered out as waste by the kidneys. However, in some people (around 2% of the population), this process isn’t completely effective. Over time, these heightened levels of uric acid lead to the formation of sharp crystals in the joints.

Uric acid is a waste product from the digestion of purines - one of the most common organic compounds on the planet. Heightened levels of this chemical can be linked to a number of things, including kidney problems, obesity, diabetes, and high alcohol intake. The tiny crystals that form in the joints in gout can cause severe pain and lead to significant debilitation in people who live with gout. Patients may also experience redness and swelling in the affected areas.

Of course, these symptoms can appear rather vague in a person who has never had gout. So, how do you tell gout from another joint problem, such as a sprained ankle?

Gout vs Sprained Ankle

When pain and swelling associated with gout affect the ankles, it can be easy to mistake the symptoms for something else - particularly if they could have been linked to a specific injury. But there are a few telltale signs that should help to clear up any confusion.

Pain

While both gout and sprained ankles can cause significant pain, patients with gout often experience severe painful sensations and can often find it difficult to walk or put any weight on the affected foot. In contrast, patients with a sprained ankle should be able to apply some pressure to the ankle, stand, and walk around.

Swelling

Swelling is a common symptom of gout - and also of sprained ankles. It is common in both of these afflictions for the tissue around the affected ankle to swell significantly. It can be difficult to tell gout and a sprained ankle based on this symptom alone, but in combination with the other symptoms in this list, you will likely be able to spot a difference.

Discolouration

When experiencing a gout flare-up, many people will find that the skin around the affected area - in addition to swelling - will become red and inflamed. It can also appear shiny and hot to the touch. Sprains also tend to exhibit some discolouration; however, this most commonly resembles bruising (purples and blues).

Stiffness

Again, stiffness can occur in both gout and a sprained ankle; however, just as people with a sprain are usually able to put weight on the affected foot, it is usually also possible to flex the ankle slightly. In contrast, many people experiencing gout in their ankle may find that the joint becomes too stiff to move effectively.

Conclusions

While gout and sprained joints can bear some resemblances - particularly when it comes to pain and swelling - there are usually some telltale signs to help you recognise what you’re dealing with. In most cases, a sprained ankle can be treated at home and pain can be managed with rest and over-the-counter pain medications. However, many people find it difficult to manage the symptoms of gout effectively.

There is no cure for gout, but common management methods include switching to a low-purine diet, staying hydrated, and taking regular supplements to prevent the build-up of uric acid.


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