Gout: Facts & Fiction

Gout has been plaguing mankind for thousands of years. Hippocrates documented the disease in 2500 BCE. Over the years, many superstitions, old wives' tales, and myths have cropped up. Modern science has been able to dispel many of these myths and discover the true causes of gout.

Some interesting gout myths:

  1. Gout is the "disease of Kings." It only affects the wealthy. The source of this myth is that historically, the only people who could afford to eat a diet that causes gout were rich people. Some notable sufferers of gout in history were Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, Henry VIII, Queen Anne, Christopher Columbus, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. Nowadays, most people in developed countries have access to gout-causing foods. Additionally, many people are genetically predisposition to gout, which is not caused by diet.
  2. Gout only affects men. Although gout is most common in middle-aged men, it can also occur in postmenopausal women. Very rarely, it occurs in premenopausal women and children.
  3. Gout is a punishment from God for a licentious lifestyle. This is another myth that arose from history. Since drinking alcohol and eating rich foods are associated with gout, the affliction was perceived as a divine judgment. Idleness or a sedentary lifestyle was also thought to be sins that brought God's gouty judgment. However, in addition to diet, gout can also be caused by genetic factors. In fact, Pope Pius suffers from gout!
  4. Gout will go away on its own. Gout will not go away by itself! It requires treatment to alleviate it. If you do not try to treat it, it will get much worse.

Important gout facts:

  1. Gout is caused by a buildup of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is produced when the body breaks down purines, which are chemicals found in certain foods, like red meat and alcohol.
  2. Gout is a very common form of arthritis. Over 5 million people worldwide suffer from gout.
  3. Hyperuricemia can cause significant joint damage even when you're not having a gout attack. Hyperuricemia is the condition of having elevated levels of uric acid in your blood. Even if you are not experiencing gout pain, uric acid may be crystallizing in your joints. This can cause extensive joint damage.
  4. Gout has been around for thousands of years. Societies like Egypt, Greece, and Rome recognized gout and had treatments to cure it.
  5. Gout used to be considered fashionable. Because of its association with a rich lifestyle, many sufferers of gout held up their condition as a badge of honor and evidence of their high social status. It was thought to "run in good families" and was therefore considered a marker of aristocracy.
  6. Gout can be treated. A diet low in purines will help alleviate uric acid buildup. Staying hydrated, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting enough exercise are all ways that gout can be managed. If these methods do not work to your satisfaction, prescription medications and herbal remedies are available.

Sources:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2600927.stm

http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/12/06/reviews/981206.06rawsont.html?_r=1

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