Arguably made famous by King Henry VIII, gout doesn’t sound like something we should be worrying about in the 21st century. And yet, it affects around 9.2 million people in the United States! In fact, gout is the most common form of arthritis in elderly patients and men are particularly at risk.
Worldwide as well, gout cases continue to increase. It’s time, therefore, to have a look at what this condition entails: what are its risks and symptoms and how can you get some relief from them if you’ve been affected?
Thanks to their positive impact on blood flow and anti-inflammatory effect, compression socks should be added to your toolkit when fighting symptoms of gout. In this article, we’ll tell you why, how to make the most of them, and what else you can do to deal with gout.
What is Gout and What Are Its Symptoms?
When uric acid crystals build up in the body, you can develop gout. This is a form of arthritis and usually affects one or more joints. Gout flare-ups are how we become aware of this condition. They entail:
- Severe pain in one or more joints - usually around ankles and toes, knees, or wrists;
- Red skin/irritation;
- Warm feeling in the affected area.
These types of sudden painful inflammation can be quite debilitating. Patients can become immobile for hours at a time. And, since gout flare-ups often occur in the big toe, this means walking is completely out of the question.
It can take up to two weeks to fully recover from a gout attack without treatment. However, once gout attacks start taking place, you can expect them to become more frequent. Over time, gout will cause damage to the joints - ultimately leading to chronic gouty arthritis.
What Causes Gout?
The build-up of uric acid crystals in the body leads to gout, but it’s important to understand how they are formed to figure out the risk factors.
Uric acid is essentially a waste product naturally found in our blood. It is created when the body breaks down purines - chemicals that can be found in certain foods and drinks. Normally, uric acid dissolves in the blood, being passed out of the body through urination. However, if too much uric acid stays in the body, it can develop into crystals that settle into the joints, causing gout.
So, is there anything you can do to reduce your risk of hyperuricemia (high level of uric acid)? Reducing the intake of foods high in purines is definitely a first step. These include:
- Seafood (particularly shrimp, salmon, lobster, and sardines);
- Red meat;
- Organ meats (e.g. liver);
- Food and drinks with high fructose corn syrup;
- Alcohol (especially beer, even the non-alcoholic type).
You can see how gout was believed to be a condition affecting the rich, especially when delicacies such as seafood were reserved to the elite! However, in our present day diets, we have easy access to all of the above, sometimes without necessarily understanding the make-up of the food we eat.
To reduce the risk of gout, you will most likely need to adhere to a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, though, we are often not aware of being at risk until the first flare-up occurs. This is why managing the symptoms of gout and keeping it from developing further (risking serious damage to the joints) becomes essential.
What are Compression Socks and How Do They Work?
Compression socks are garments made with materials that apply gentle pressure to the lower limbs. Graduated compression socks are tighter around the ankles, gradually reducing pressure on the shins and up to just under the knees.
This pressure facilitates blood flow in the lower legs. It is particularly beneficial for stimulating blood circulation from the lower legs towards the heart, avoiding the formation of blood clots and the pooling of fluid around the ankles. People who spend a lot of time on their feet or those who don’t move for long periods of time (e.g. on a long plane ride or when bed-ridden, in surgery recovery) are at risk of developing edema and other conditions associated with poor blood circulation. Compression socks work to provide relief from these symptoms and to reduce the likelihood of discomfort developing into illness.
You can read more about the science behind compression therapy here.
How Do Compression Socks Help With Gout?
Gout primarily affects the limbs and predominantly the lower extremities. Its main symptoms include swelling, pain and inflammation, which are exactly the types of problems that compression socks have been proven effective against.
While there is no actual cure for gout, you can relieve symptoms with rest, ice, and compression therapy. Wearing compression socks stimulates blood flow in your lower legs, helping reduce the swelling and inflammation. The gentle massage from compression garments will provide a welcome relief from swollen legs and ankles, helping you feel better after a gout flare-up.
Additionally, because compression socks improve blood flow in the legs, they are effective at preventing more serious conditions linked to insufficient blood circulation. You can worry less about varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis and other conditions, and focus on adapting your lifestyle to keep gout flare-ups away.
The Best Compression Socks for Gout Relief
Any type of good-quality compression stockings or socks that apply gentle pressure on the limbs will have a beneficial effect when you suffer from gout. You just need to ensure that you’re wearing the right size and compression level for you, in a material that suits what you’re up to.
Whether you choose compression socks or more coverage, such as from stockings or tights, is up to you. Regardless, these compression garments will help promote better blood circulation throughout your body. However, focusing on the most affected part of your body - e.g., the ankles and toes, will provide you with quicker relief from pain and swelling.
If you’re experiencing knee pain as well, opt for some compression tights to cover more of your legs.
It’s essential to wear well-fitting compression socks for gout. If they’re too tight, they’ll cut off your circulation and feel uncomfortable. If they’re too loose, they won’t deliver any benefits and can roll down the leg, leaving you frustrated.
To ensure best fit, follow our sizing guidelines and try your socks on as soon as you buy them, so you can exchange them if needed.
Compression socks for gout come in a range of fabrics, so they can adapt to your lifestyle and environment. Go for cotton for all-day comfort and multiple styling options, or choose Nylon or moisture-wick Nylon for more active pursuits.
If you feel the cold easily, or struggle with humidity, our range of Merino wool socks adapts to any conditions. Thermoregulating, hypo-allergenic materials like Merino are great for pretty much any setting and feel wonderfully comfortable, too.
Finally, compression socks come in various levels, which show how much pressure will be applied to your limbs. For first-time users, the light to moderate compression level (15-20 mmHg) is perfect for starting to feel some benefits right away.
Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor may advise moving to higher levels or even give you a prescription for medical grade compression socks. Please check to see what would be best for your situation.
How to Wear Compression Socks for Gout
Wearing compression socks doesn’t need to wait until you have a gout flare-up. However, when you notice your feet and ankles swelling or start to feel pain and discomfort from the toes up to the knees, putting on your compression socks right away is essential.
You can wear compression socks for gout for as long as you feel comfortable. Most people start by wearing them for a few hours at a time to get used to the feeling, then slowly increase that to up to 24 hours. You’re safe to wear compression socks when sleeping or exercising, too.
We do recommend changing and washing them regularly, however. The better you care for your compression socks, the longer they’ll keep delivering optimal levels of pressure to your legs.
Using Compression Socks in Conjunction with Other Gout Treatments
While compression will deliver some all-important pain relief and help reduce swelling and inflammation, there are more things you can do to treat your gout symptoms. Doing all these together will help you the quickest.
Dietary Changes and Hydration
Because gout is caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood, and uric acid comes about after consuming specific food and drinks, we can already look to eliminate those from your diet. Reduce consumption of alcohol, seafood, red meat, and high fructose corn syrup as soon as you’ve had a gout diagnosis.
Something else that can help is adequate hydration. Uric acid is flushed out of the body by kidneys, through urine. The better hydrated you are, the happier your kidneys will be and this cycle can continue in a healthy manner.
Heat or Cold Therapy
Applying heat or an ice pack to areas affected by gout can also help with pain and inflammation. Try both to see what works best for you. You can use these in conjunction with wearing compression socks.
In the midst of a gout flare-up, it’s important to rest the joints as much as possible. Put on your compression socks and lift up your feet!
Talk to Your Doctor About Medication
For severe cases of gout, medication may be needed. Additionally, gout can also be caused by obesity, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, or a metabolic syndrome. Therefore, medication for these conditions will also be beneficial. Speak to your doctor about what could work best for you once you’ve been diagnosed with gout.