DISEASE OF KINGS’: WHAT IS GOUT?

Historically known as ‘the disease of kings’, with Henry VIII a known sufferer, gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis which has long been thought to be caused by an overindulgent lifestyle.

The condition used to be rare among young people, but research suggests it is becoming more common with the obese getting it a decade earlier than healthy weight people.

Men are more likely to develop gout than women because their uric acid levels rise during puberty and remain higher than women through adulthood.

It usually first appears between the ages of 30 to 60 and becomes more common with age.
The condition is characterised by sudden onset of acute pain, redness and swelling in the joints such as the big toe.

Gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is a waste product that forms when the body breaks down chemicals in the cells known as purines.

If you produce too much uric acid or excrete too little when you urinate, the uric acid will build up and may cause needle-like crystals in and around the joints, most commonly in the foot (particularly the big toe), but also the knees, fingers, forearms and elbows.

The crystals may spill over from the joint cartilage into the joint space, causing a painful attack.
Foods naturally high in purines include red meat – such as beef, lamb and pork – seafood, especially shellfish and oily fish, and offal.

‘It is protein-rich foods that cause gout,’ dietitian Helen Bond told MailOnline. ‘Cheese is not a high risk food, although eating a lot of it will mean he is likely to have high calcium – and cholesterol – levels.’
Other risk factors include obesity – partly because of extra pressure on the joints and chemical changes as a result of the fat – and heavy alcohol consumption, particularly beer, which is high in purines, and spirits.

Smoking is not generally seen as a risk factor for gout.

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