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 Friday, 27 December, 2002, 00:15 GMT
Dispelling myths about gout
Paul Webber
Paul Webber's gout makes him the butt of jokes
Think of gout and the chances are you will visualise an elderly, portly red-faced man drinking and eating to excess.

Once dubbed the "disease of Kings" because of its association with rich foods and alcohol, gout sufferers have long been the butt of cruel jokes.

But the reality of the disease, which affects about 150,000 people in the UK, is very different.

Although some may exacerbate gout by drinking alcohol and over-eating, it is often a hereditary condition, which people can do little to prevent.

Gout is a metabolic disorder, its symptoms resulting from the accumulation of uric acid in the body. This causes an intense inflammatory reaction resulting in red, swollen and painful joints.

I went through a lot of pain and suffering

Paul Webber

When Paul Webber, 27, had his first attack of gout he thought he had broken his toe playing football.

The pain was excruciating. His toe was so sore that he could not bear to have even a sheet resting on it at night.

But it was another two and a half years before he was finally diagnosed.

Now he uses medication and has the condition largely under control, but he still has attacks.

Mockery

Paul said that despite gout being a very unpleasant condition, many people find it amusing when he tells people of his experience.

"Most of my friends giggle and laugh and call me 'gout boy'.

"I think people always used to associate it with people who used to eat and drink too much, but mine is hereditary.

"Before I knew what it was I thought I had broken my toe playing football.

"The most severe attacks I have had are around Christmas time. Because I have been drinking more than usual. But I don't drink any more than other people of my age.

Paul said that despite so many people in the UK suffering from the condition, many people still did not understand it

"I went for two and a half years not knowing what it was. I went through a lot of pain and suffering."

Myths

Now a national society has been launched to help raise awareness of the condition and dispel some of the common myths.

A spokesman for the UK Gout Society said: "Gout is probably the most misrepresented disease in history.

" It has been subject to caricature and innuendo, with the most common implication being that gout is self-induced - either the result of rich food, or, more particularly, drink.

"For hundreds of years the public perception of a patient with gout has been a caricature of a man with a laughable, self-inflicted disorder associated with overindulgence in rich food and port wine.

"The reality for those who experience an attack is very different."

See also:

25 Aug 99 | Wales
18 Nov 02 | N Ireland
09 Nov 02 | Health
26 Oct 02 | Health
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