Charlie Stayt health: BBC star on the ‘painful’ condition that developed ‘overnight’

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Back in 2014 when presenting BBC Breakfast, Stayt – who typically likes to keep details of his health private – revealed that in the past he has suffered from the “extraordinarily painful” condition of gout. It was when expert Dr Amrit Ryatt was appearing on the show, discussing the signs and symptoms of the condition, that the 60-year-old spoke up, confirming not only that he has the condition, but that it is fast developing.

Gout is described by the NHS as a type of arthritis that causes “sudden, severe joint pain”. Usually affecting the big toe, gout can also affect joints in the feet, hands, wrists, elbows and knees.

Discussing how painful the condition can be, Dr Ryatt said: “It can affect one or several joints in the body giving a variety of symptoms. From short acute symptoms to, if left untreated, causing other complications.

“Some women have likened [the pain] to childbirth and men also describe it as very painful too.

“Some people cannot even tolerate having a simple bed sheet touching the joint that’s affected – it’s that painful!”

Joining in on the conversation, Stayt then shared: “I have had gout in my foot, and it is extraordinarily painful and happened very quickly, literally sort of overnight.”

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explain that gout flares tend to start suddenly, with symptoms lasting for days or even weeks.

These flares are followed by long periods of remission – weeks, months or years, without symptoms – before another flare begins. Once a flare strikes, symptoms can include:

  • Pain, usually intense
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Heat.

These symptoms develop due to a build-up of uric acid in the body. Known professionally as hyperuricemia, the body makes uric acid when it breaks down purines, which are found in your body and the foods you eat.

However, when there is too much uric acid in the body, uric acid crystals (monosodium urate) can build up in joints, fluids, and tissues within the body. It is important to note that hyperuricemia does not always cause gout, and hyperuricemia without gout symptoms does not need to be treated.

Left questioning why he had been affected by the condition, Stayt put his questions to Dr Ryatt, adding: “It makes you question. Obviously it is linked to diet a lot, traditionally linked to alcohol. What do you say to people who have suffered from gout and how do you treat it?”

Responding, Dr Ryatt shared: “There are some things that everyone can do, whether they have had gout before or [to] reduce the risk of getting gout. You have mentioned alcohol and diet.

“Certainly certain types of alcohol such as beers, ports and fortified wines and stouts have high levels of purines, which is what is broken down to form uric acid, which causes gout. So avoid drinking too much of them if you have a predisposition to getting gout.

“Making sure you keep your alcohol limits within the recommended guidelines. Don’t binge drink, making sure you are well hydrated with plenty of water also helps keep crystal formation down.

“Other lifestyle factors that we can all do. Keeping our weight healthy. If you are overweight or obese you are at risk of gout. But choose a sensible diet, do not opt for a crash diet or a diet high in protein because that will also put you at risk of purines going up.”

In addition to Dr Ryatt’s advice, the CDC explained that other possible risk factors for developing gout include:

  • Being male
  • Having certain health conditions, including: congestive heart failure, hypertension (high blood pressure); insulin resistance; metabolic syndrome; diabetes; and poor kidney function.
  • Using certain medications, such as diuretics (water pills) can also increase the risk of gout, as too can eating or drinking food and drinks high in fructose (a type of sugar).

A doctor will usually assess if an individual has gout by examining symptoms. This is because the condition can only be diagnosed during a flare when a joint is hot, swollen, and painful and when a lab test finds uric acid crystals in the affected joint.

From here treatment usually involves a combination of self-help techniques and medication such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs like ibuprofen.

Recommended self-help techniques can include:

  • Staying healthy
  • Eating a healthy balanced diet
  • Pursue activities you enjoy.

When asked if people can be treated and never have the condition return, Dr Ryatt added: “If you manage it correctly. Yes. If you modify your diet and lifestyle factors and take away any other risk factors, it will prevent any further problems.

“A lot of people do go on to have recurrent attacks of gout and that is when you can have long-term problems in the joint. So if you suspect you have gout or have in the past go and see your GP.”

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