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 Wednesday, 25 August, 1999, 19:09 GMT 20:09 UK
Guildford limps home as gout champion
Alcohol can worsen gout attacks
High living in the Surrey stockbroker belt has helped push it to the top of a gout league table compiled by researchers.

The painful condition, which usually afflicts middle-aged men, is often blamed on over-indulgence in fine wines and rich food.

Topping a list of more than 20 in the gout stakes is the bustling commuter town of Guildford, until now more famous for being the home of the University of Surrey, and having a castle built by William the Conqueror.

But 5.7% of the men questionned there could remember being told they had the condition.

Other gout-ridden towns include Merthyr Tydfil, while the relative austerity of Scottish life is apparently reflected in the scores for Ayr and Falkirk, where only 1% of men confessed to the condition.

The research, by doctors at the Royal Free Hospital in North London, was published in the journal of the Royal College of Physicians.

Drink makes attacks worse

Gout is caused by an excess of uric acid in the body, and although it is not originally caused by a luxurious lifestyle and diet, attacks can be made worse by being obese, or eating certain foods or drinking alcohol.

Attacks can be agonising, with uric acid crystals deposited in the joints, particularly the knees, feet and ankles, though occasionally the elbows and wrists. Drug treatment is possible, although there are unpleasant side effects.

If left untreated, excessive uric acid levels can cause serious complications such as permanent arthritis or kidney damage.

Around 200,000 people in the UK currently suffer from attacks.

However, a spokesman for Guildford Borough Council was sceptical that the town was plagued by gout.

He said: "If you walk down the High Street you would never get that impression."

The research was revealing about the prevalence of other diseases in other towns.

Peptic ulcers, also related to poor diet, along with stress, were reported most in Carlisle, where 17.5% of middle-aged men said they had suffered from them.

Harrogate in Yorkshire was top of the asthma league, way ahead of Dewsbury in second spot, while Wigan holds first place in terms of high blood pressure.

See also:

10 Aug 98 | Health
28 May 99 | Health
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