Gout may seem like a quaint historical ailment that no one gets anymore, but nothing could be further from the truth.
This type of arthritis is on the rise—particularly among men. More than 8 million people have it, and the rates have doubled in the last 50 years. Gout is characterized by excess uric acid in the bloods, which leads to extreme pain, redness, and swelling in the joints. For those with chronic gout, permanent joint damage can occur. At the same time, using the right medications and making healthy life changes can alleviate symptoms of the disease.
Once considered a disease of the upper class, gout can strike anyone, even professional athletes and young adults. Here are eight famous people—both in ancient history and the modern era—who have been diagnosed with gout.
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Jared Leto, age 45, is an actor best known for movies like Dallas Buyers Club, Fight Club and Requiem for a Dream.
Leto developed gout-like foot pain after gaining 60 pounds for the film Chapter 27, in which he played the role of Mark David Chapman, the deranged killer of John Lennon.
"I couldn't walk for long distances; I had a wheelchair because it was so painful," Leto told Daily News. "My body was in shock from the amount of weight I gained."
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This left-handed pitcher has played for the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays and has struggled with gout throughout his baseball career.
"I just kind of woke up one morning, stepped out of bed, took one stride toward the bathroom and ended up giving a high falsetto scream, like a six-year-girl, flopping to the floor, [and] grabbing my left big toe."
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Maurice Cheeks is a stereotype-destroying gout patient. A super-fit athlete who played 15 seasons in the National Basketball Association, Cheeks started to struggle with excruciating gout pain when he was 46 and coaching the Portland Trail Blazers.
"If any of you ever had [gout], you would know you would try to do everything possible to try and prevent it," Cheeks said in 2008 on the second annual National Gout Awareness Day. "Because once it's full-blown, there's not a whole lot you can do."
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Harry Kewell, an Australian professional soccer player, was 27 when he was diagnosed with gout while playing in the 2006 World Cup. (Or not playinga gout flare kept him out of the game.)
"He's in a lot of pain, he can't walk, he's walking on crutches. It was disappointing for us, because we could have done with him," teammate Scott Chipperfield told BBC Sport.
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King Henry VIII of England
When he wasn't lopping off his wives' heads, King Henry VIII was coping with attacks of gout, which often flares painfully and then subsides.
The British king, who lived from 1491 to 1547, was overweight and is often pictured holding a chunk of meat or glass of wine. (All three increase the risk of gout.)
This monarch is one reason gout used to be known as the "disease of kings."
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Benjamin Franklin, the 18th century Renaissance man, discovered electricity, invented bifocals, was one of the founding fathers of the United Statesand had gout.
In fact, Franklin missed many meetings that were held to draft the Declaration of Independence due to gout.
However, Thomas Jefferson kindly sent him the documents, which allowed Franklin to make his changes.
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Sir Isaac Newton
In 1725, Sir Isaac Newton, English mathematician and physicist, experienced gout attacks in both his feet, just two years before his death.
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British author and poet Samuel Johnson (1709 to 1784) suffered from what he and his doctors labeled as gout, beginning in 1775, when he was 65.
"The gout has treated me with more severity than any former time; it however never climbed higher than my ankles," he told William Bowles in 1783.
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