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Gout is a type of arthritis involving the buildup of uric acid in the blood, resulting in joint inflammation in the hands, wrists, or lower extremities. In the case of ankle gout, the onset of symptoms is typically severe, but may only affect one ankle. Often, individuals wake in the middle of the night to excruciating pain in and around the ankle joint. The joint typically appears red and swollen, and the patient may also have a mild fever. Pain is most often more intense during the first 24 hours of an attack, although discomfort usually continues to linger for days after initial onset.
Symptom severity increases and more symptoms present when a person suffers from chronic ankle gout rather than just an acute attack of gout. For example, people with chronic ankle gout often have more pain and tenderness, increased swelling, a fever, loss of motion in the ankle, and other symptoms. Both ankles, as well as other joints, may also be affected or show signs of gout as the disease progresses.
After years of the disease, it is not uncommon for lumps to appear around the ankle joint, most often near the Achilles tendon. Tophi, the term used for such lumps, is caused by the buildup of uric acid crystals around the bones and soft tissue of the affected joint. It is not uncommon for people with chronic ankle gout to have tophi that discharge a white, chalky substance. Few patients report pain associated with these lumps, but their appearance is often used in diagnosing or confirming a diagnosis of chronic gout.
According to research, roughly half of all individuals who experience an acute attack of ankle gout will have another attack. With each attack, symptom severity typically increases, as does the potential for damage to the joint. Once the condition becomes chronic, sufferers typically have intense pain and tenderness to the point that even bed linens resting on the ankle will cause extreme discomfort. Eventually, symptoms will include the loss of motion in the affected ankle, a direct result of joint damage.
Each individual experiences a different level of symptoms, based on the severity of the disease and numerous health factors. Diet, exercise, and other medical conditions can affect the frequency and severity of symptoms in patients with chronic ankle gout. While there is no cure for gout, changes in the patient's lifestyle, including a low-purine diet, are typically recommended to reduce symptoms.