Gout And Decrepitude

One of the aspects of my second favorite Jane Austen novel [1] that I find most interesting is the way that the novel describes the fate of those who have served their country though long and difficult service on the high seas only to end up dealing with gout and decrepitude. Sadly, this is something I can relate to all too well. At the age of 25, the day after my 25th birthday, I ended up dealing with a serious gout attack the morning after playing tennis with a close friend of mine, an attack that lasted for about a week before it died down. Coming as it did a few months after the death of my father, it was a reminder that in some ways I was already becoming an old man after a quarter century of a difficult life. A few years later, in the midst of another difficult period, I had another attack that lasted on and off for several months. Ever since then I have had flareups like this morning but nothing as serious. I will relax, let my feet rest a bit, and make sure I have enough fluids, and this too shall pass.

Of course, as I am still in my early 30’s, I suppose I cannot be considered decrepit yet. Yet I am definitely gouty, not because of my diet, but rather because of the inability of my kidneys apparently to properly secrete uric acid, instead dumping it from time to time in the joints of my right big toe. What concerns me about this relates to family history as well as my own reading about the long-term effects of stress [2], both of which would indicate that my gout may be interrelated with my complicated personal history, given the fact that chemicals secreted during stress can case damage to kidneys, and given my family history with regards to sensitivities involving the processing of food items (including my own allergies), this is definitely not a good thing.

It is also related, oddly enough, to my job history. As it happened, I worked for four and a half years reviewing modular building plans, and at my job, I was one of three people working in the back offices who all had to deal with gout-related issues. It is rather striking that three people in a small office who work close to each other would all simultaneously deal with gout. Given the variance between us in terms of diet and drinking and family history and background, either one of two cases is true. Either our office was exceptionally unlucky (given that even assuming a rate of 2% chance for gout in the normal population, the odds of having three people in an office of six that was simultaneously gouty would be about 8/10,000 or so, which is not particularly likely. Alternatively, it could be possible that there was the same environmental condition that all of us had to deal with that made gout more likely, but it is very unclear what that would be, given the fact that we all had different diets.

For a long time, gout has been associated with old age. For example, the 17th century English physician Thomas Sydenham said the following: “Gouty patients are, generally, either old men, or men who have so worn themselves out in youth as to have brought on a premature old age—of such dissolute habits none being more common than the premature and excessive indulgence in venery [that is, sexual behavior], and the like exhausting passions [3].” Being a gouty young person of not particularly dissolute habits, I ponder such questions as odds and chance, and wonder what benefit it would be to feel both far older and far younger than I am at the same time in such different ways. There has to be something odd and worthwhile in these odd connections and parallels. What exactly one needs to ponder and muse on is a different matter entirely.

[1] That would be Persuasion. See, for example:




[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/book-review-the-stress-of-life/

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gout

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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