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You Are In Famous Company

From modern day basketball All Star and head coach of the Philadelphia '76ers, Maurice Cheeks, to historical figures like Henry VIII and Benjamin Franklin, many famous people have suffered from gout.  With this well known company you don't have to feel alone in your suffering.

When you aren't in pain you may want to read some of the many books about gout and its effects. There are even scholarly works looking at how gout has influenced history.

Charles V

For example, in 1552 Holy Roman Emperor Charles V was unable to lead his army into battle against the French city of Metz, due to a severe attack of gout. Although historians have debated whether he would have won the battle, four years later, apparently the gout pain was too much for him and he abdicated his throne letting his son and heir Philip II of Spain take over. Philip II was of course the same one who sent the Spanish Armada against Queen Elizabeth I of England. It is not known if Philip inherited the condition. If Charles V had still been king, perhaps this famous battle wouldn't have happened and Spain wouldn't have been defeated. When laboratory analysis of Charles V's mummified little finger (don't ask!) was done a few years ago, sure enough, the telltale signs of gout, needle-shaped crystals of uric acid were present.

George III And Benjamin Franklin

George III (yes the same one!) although seemingly not a sufferer himself, passed the condition on to five of his children, including George IV. His contemporary and nemesis, Benjamin Franklin, certainly did suffer from the gout. Although he believed that you should "eat to live, and not live to eat" he also said and the advice still applies today "Be temperate in wine, in eating, ... or the Gout will seize you and plague you both," He also suffered from psoriasis and kidney stones, also linked to excess uric acid in the blood. His work in a print shop handling lead type when he was younger probably exposed him to mild lead poisoning and that, combined with drinking wine from lead crystal cut glass decanters, normal in the 18C, which leached lead into the wine, made his gout worse.

Affluence And Gout

Gout has always been seen as a disease of the affluent. Probably because purine rich food and drink like red meats and wines consumed in large quantities were only affordable to the rich. There are many cartoons published in the 18th and 19th centuries illustrating well known people with big bandages on their feet and their foot up on a stool. This was a sign that the person had gout. Gout stools and bath chairs specially designed so that the foot could be elevated, were fashionable among the ‘spa set'. They would go to ‘take the waters' in the belief that this would facilitate a cure.

Today we know that gout is in part a hereditary disease, and that excess uric acid in the blood is responsible. The rise in instance of gout, especially in the United States, could perhaps point to the fact that we are living a much more affluent lifestyle than was possible in the past for the average person.