The History of Gout… What We Know About the “Arthritis of the Big Toe”

If you have experienced gout, then you know how painful it can be and how it can affect your life, especially if it causes severe inflammation of your toes that could lead to issues in walking which could last for several days.

But did you know that gout is actually an old medical condition?

The first documentation of the disease is from the Egyptians in 2640 BC, podagra – acute gout occurring in the first metatarsophalangeal joint, and referred to as arthritis of the big toe was later recognized by Hippocrates, the Greek physician, in the fifth century BC, who referred to it as ‘the unwalkable disease’.

James Gillray [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
James Gillray [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Hippocrates commented on it in his Aphorisms, noting its absence in eunuchs and premenopausal women. Aulus Cornelius Celsus (30 AD) described the linkage with alcohol, later onset in women, and associated kidney problems:

The term is derived from the Latin word gutta (or ‘drop’), and referred to the prevailing medieval belief that an excess of one of the four ‘humors’ – which in equilibrium were thought to maintain health – would, under certain circumstances, ‘drop’ or flow into a joint, causing pain and inflammation. The word “gout” was initially used by Randolphus of Bocking, around 1200 AD.