Gout; A Form of Arthritis
By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
Gout, a form of arthritis, is being seen more in elderly women. This is because blood levels of uric acid rise with menopause, and many women are now living 20-30 years beyond menopause. With gout, uric acid crystals form in the joints and act like “sharp pieces of glass,” causing excruciating pain in one or more joints, frequently the main “knuckle” of the big toe. If your mother does indeed have gout, this helps to explain why. Many conditions can mimic gout, however, and only a physician can accurately diagnose the condition.
Medical management of this form of arthritis is usually quite successful. Treatment of the acute attack of gout is directed at rest of the affected joint(s), and anti-inflammatory medications. Further treatment is aimed at decreasing the levels of uric acid in the blood to normal limits.
You asked about exercise. The joint(s) is rested during the acute phase of the attack of gout. Gentle range of motion as tolerated may be done, only a few repetitions throughout the day. Once the acute phase has passed, exercise is directed at restoring/maintaining the mobility and strength of the joint(s). Many of Mary Ann’s exercise programs include ankle mobility and strengthening exercises. These are important, and range of motion and strengthening the muscles of the toes are important, too. Exercises may be more comfortable done in a warm bath or pool. I have enclosed an exercise sheet for the feet using a towel and one using the small ball. I recommend you purchase a small ball from us ($5.50) as they are not available in stores–it feels like a wonderful massage to the foot.
Foods that may contribute to an attack of gout include:
• alcohol, especially beer and wine
• diet rich in red meat (especially organ meats such as liver, tongue, or kidney)
• sardines or anchovies
For long-term relief of gout, your doctor will probably recommend
• loss of excess weight
• limit intake of alcohol and red meat
• drink lots of liquids
• take medication as prescribed.
365 Health Hints by Don R. Powell, PH.D. and The American Institute for Preventive Medicine
Geriatric Rehabilitation edited by Bryan Kemp, Kenneth Brummel-Smith, Joseph W. Ramsdell