Gout causes in and around joints, particularly the big toe (Reuters)
Gout affects areas in and around joints, particularly the big toe (Reuters)

Gout, once considered to be the "disease of kings" because it used to be brought on through extravagant lifestyles, is making a comeback in the UK, medical experts have warned.

Research shows the number of people afflicted by gout between 1999 and 2009 stood at 32,741 - at an annual increase of 7.2 percent.

The number of emergency admissions to hospital because of gout nearly doubled from 1,875 to 3,496 during the same time.

The study is published in the journal Rheumatology.

Famous sufferers of gout include Henry VIII, Leonardo da Vinci, Queen Victoria and Alexandra the Great. It has long been regarded as a disease of the rich because of its links with over-indulging food and drink.

The condition is brought about by a build-up of uric acid in the blood which the kidneys do not clean up quickly enough often because of a rich diet and too much alcohol. Crystals form in and around joints, particularly the big toe, which cause severe pain to the sufferer.

Researchers said the resurgence in the number of people with gout was linked to alcohol, diet, obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Prof Anthony Jones, who specialises in neuro-rheumatology at Manchester University, said: "The figures are interesting, and it is a huge study. Essentially, gout is increasing because of bad habits.

"We drink too much, eat the wrong food, do little exercise and are overweight. I can remember only a small number of gout patients who were thin.

"People tend to associate heavy drinking with young people but, in fact, older people consume more, and gout is a disease of older people."

It is estimated that one 70 UK adults suffer from symptoms related to gout.