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The Disease of Kings

Gout is a form of arthritis which features swelling in the joints, stiffness and bouts of severe, sudden pain. Throughout the history of gout, Physicians believed that gout was caused by excessive consumption of rich foods and alcohol. Because of its association with lavish food and drink, gout has been called "The Disease of Kings" or "The Rich Man's Disease." Scientific research, however, now shows that there are many factors which contribute to the onset of gout including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and genetics.

An Ancient Disease

Gout is one of the oldest diseases known to afflict humanity. Reports of gout like symptoms go back as far as ancient Egypt. Despite the ancient history of gout, no cure has been discovered, only treatments developed. Hippocrates described gout and attributed it to an imbalance of the humors which were blood, black bile, yellow bile and phlegm. He believed that the out of balanced humors 'dropped' into a joint and caused the pain and inflammation. In the sixth century A. D. Alexander of Tralles extracted Cholchine from the seeds of autumn crocuses and found it helpful in treating gout. This treatment is still occasionally used today. Other ancient treatments included a moderate diet and exercises. Both of which are still prescribed today.

Gout Explained

The first modern breakthrough in history of gout came in 1679. The Dutch scientist, Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek used a microscope to examined tophi, the chalky deposit which gout leave behind. He discovered that tophi was composed of crystals. One hundred years later, Carl Scheele, discovered what he called lithic acid which was later renamed uric acid. The connection between uric acid and tophi was not discovered until 1797. Finally, in 1848, Sir Alfred Garrod, a gout and rheumatism expert, proved firmly that gout was caused by deposits of uric acid in the joints. The nineteenth, also, saw the development of uricosuric treatments which increases the amount of uric acid excreted through the kidneys.

Since the nineteenth century few breakthroughs have been made in the treatment of gout. Modern medicine relies on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory coupled with proper diet and exercise to treat gout.