Physicians suggest that individuals diagnosed with gout engage in physical exercise as a means of maintaining joint mobility. Exercise and gout have no further medically proven relationship as physical activity does not prevent gout attacks from occurring and does not reduce uric acid crystals in size or number. Inhibiting gout attacks requires that individuals follow a diet that eliminates or minimizes the number of foods ingested known to contain purine. Patients must also remain well hydrated and take medications as prescribed.
When people consume foods containing purine, the body breaks the chemical down into uric acid. Most of the time, the kidneys eliminate the acid from the body. Some people, however, do not metabolize uric acid as efficiently as others do, and the acid travels through the blood and enters the synovial lining of joints in the form of crystals, commonly referred to as tophi. Though only the size of a white blood cell, the crystals accumulate and irritate the joint. This is the condition physicians refer to as gout.
Health care providers consider gout a type of arthritis, as the condition generally affects the joints. It may affect any joint in the body but most often appears in the big toe, which generally appears reddened and may swell. This is caused by inflammation of the joint, and patients typically complain of burning pain. The affected joint may also seem stiff and difficult to move. Exercise and gout during such an active attack are related only by the irritation that exercise would cause the joint.
Treating gout in this stage generally requires elevating and resting the affected area, along with using cold compress applications. Physicians often suggest using over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory medications to minimize the pain from gout. Flare-ups in the initial stages of the disease usually occur infrequently and resolve without intervention. Individuals for whom the condition does not resolve or people experiencing repeated attacks usually require further evaluation. Physicians perform physical examination of the affected area and evaluate uric acid levels in the blood.
Since purine rich foods are one of the main causes of gout recurrence, patients should avoid eating organ meats, and canned fish, including anchovies, herring, and sardines. Other foods that cause gout include beer, and alcohol in general, as alcoholic beverages decrease uric acid elimination. Asparagus, legumes, mushrooms, and yeast also contain fairly high levels of the chemical. Some physicians suggest drinking more fluids to enable kidneys to adequately flush uric acid from the body.
Most health care providers also advise that patients maintain a healthy body weight. Prophylactic gout treatment may include the prescription medication colchicine, which inhibits the inflammatory processes that result from the presence of tophi. They might also suggest medications that prevent uric acid formation.