George Hook: Gout gives pain like no other
Gout is caused by excess uric acid in the body
Rugby pundit and broadcaster George Hook, who has had gout for 15 years, says it’s a pain like no other. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien
In my experience, all non-gout sufferers think the condition is a great joke and make wisecracks about the amount of red wine you drink and the rich food you must be eating. They see it as a rich man’s disease.
If they had the pain from gout for about five minutes, they would change their tune. I’ve probably had gout for 15 years.
The first time I got it, my big toe was twice its normal size and was angry, red and hot.
Gout is caused by excess uric acid in your system. It attacks joints, and forms in crystals which cause severe pain. Essentially, the cure for it is anti-inflammatory medicine, or whatever pain-relief medication that works for you. The thing is to start the medication early on in an attack – when you feel the first tingle, which is often in the middle of the night.
If you take medication at that point, you can do well. If you wait a few days the pain is like nothing you’ve ever experienced. It gets to a point where you cannot bear the weight of a single bed sheet on your toe.
The big toe is the traditional gout area. You’ll see a lot of paintings of these guys in Regency England sitting with their foot on a footstool in bandages.
There was no real medication to deal with it back then. At least we now have some medication.
One point people sometimes miss is that gout can be very dangerous. People might have read a few weeks ago about a fellow who experienced the UK’s first hand transplant operation. How did he lose his hand? He didn’t lose it in an accident or anything like that – he lost it because he had gout.
I am worried at the moment and have appointments with my doctor and my rheumatologist because my gout has moved to my elbow. When it started paining me, I thought I had tennis elbow.
The only place I could put my hand to get some relief was in my coat. It was incredibly painful. I literally did not get a wink of sleep the night before that game.
There is an awful lot of anecdotal evidence that black cherry juice reduces gout. You can also take things like Allopurinol, which is a drug that works towards reducing uric acid in your system and helps get rid of gout.
Often though, the problem is that having gout is more down to your DNA than the bottle of Chianti. If you have certain levels of uric acid, you’re goosed.