- Gout is the most common type of inflammatory arthritis.
- It causes sudden and intense attacks of pain in the joint, most often the big toe. It also commonly occurs in the ankle, knees, and toes.
- Many different celebrities have spoken out about their gout, from actors to athletes, politicians and even former kings.
- Some examples of celebrities living with gout are Jared Leto, Jim Belushi, and Dick Cheney.
We often put celebrities up on a pedestal because they live such lavish lifestyles and only showcase the best parts of their life. We forget they are just like us. At the end of the day, celebrities and famous people are human, just like us. This means they are susceptible to illnesses and health conditions.
As of recently, Hollywood is beginning to change and celebrities are becoming much more forthcoming about their personal struggles. This is a good thing, especially when it comes to health challenges because it makes people feel less alone. One condition in particular is gout. Here’s a look at 11 celebrities you likely didn’t know were living with gout…
What is Gout?
Gout is a type of arthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, it’s the most common type of inflammatory arthritis. “It causes sudden and intense attacks of joint pain, often in the big toe and at night,” writes the source. However, it’s not limited to the big toe. It can affect any joint in the body. Other common places are the toes, ankle, or knees.
It occurs in both men and women, but men are three times more likely to develop gout than women, warns the source. The highest risk group are men over the age of 40 and women after menopause who lose the protective effects of estrogen.
Jared Leto is an actor known for fully immersing himself in the roles he takes, even going so far as making drastic changes to his appearance. One of the most shocking transformations was for the role of Mark David Chapman in the film Chapter 27 where he gained 60-pounds in a short period of time.
Not surprisingly, this rapid weight gain took a toll on his body. He ended up developing what he thinks was gout. “I couldn’t walk for long distances; I had a wheelchair because it was so painful,” says Leto to the New York Daily News. “My body was in shock from the amount of weight I gained.”
Gout is an extremely painful condition that can impact a person’s daily life. This impact is heightened when that person is a professional athlete. David Wells is a left-handed pitcher who has played for the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays. Unfortunately, his baseball career has been riddled with bouts of gout attacks that impact his ability to play.
“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-old girl, flopping to the floor, [and] grabbing my left big toe,” writes Wells in his 2000 New York Times best seller, Perfect I’m Not: Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches, and Baseballs.
To famous comedian Jim Belushi, gout is no laughing matter. He was first diagnosed with gout back in the 90s after his big toe swelled up. Unfortunately the condition runs in his family and since his diagnosis he has done his best to spread awareness about the condition.
According to a 2011 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Belushi didn’t seek medical treatment until he suffered a gout attack on stage in the middle of a performance which left immobile, standing on the back heel of his foot. “I did the whole show in that one position while Danny was dancing around,” said Belushi. “I can take the pain at home but what was torturous to me was that I compromised the show.” Afterwards he went to a rheumatologist who put him on medication and he’s been attack-free since the publication of that article.
One of the most famous people in America, Benjamin Franklin is well known for discovering electricity, inventing bifocals, and being on the founding fathers of the United States. His resume of accomplishments is long and impressive, but what people might not know about him is that he suffered from gout.
“In fact, Franklin missed many meetings that were held to draft the Declaration of Independence due to gout,” writes Health.com. “However, Thomas Jefferson kindly sent him the documents, which allowed Franklin to make his changes.”
Deemed one of the greatest actors of all time, Laurence Olivier was an English actor and director who reined on stage during the mid-20th century. His most well known roles are in Shakespeare’s Richard III and Oedipus. He starred in many films from Wuthering Heights to King Lear. He was the founding director of Britain’s National Theatre and recipient of four Academy Awards, two British Academy Film Awards, Five Emmy Awards, and three Golden Globe awards.
According to numerous online reports, including Healthgrades.com, Olivier had gout. He was first diagnosed after experiencing his first flare up while filming Bunny Lake is Missing in 1965.
Another athlete affected by gout is basketball star Maurice Cheeks. He’s a veteran of the National Basketball Association, four-time NBA All-Star, and currently the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. He’s been open about sharing his experience with gout in order to bring attention to the condition.
In 2022 he spoke at a press conference for the second annual National Gout Awareness Day where he detailed his experience with gout. “If any of you ever had [gout], you would know you would try to do everything possible to try and prevent it,” said Cheeks. “Because once it’s full-blown, there’s not a whole lot you can do.”
It’s not clear if former Vice President Dick Cheney actually has gout or not. Reports that he did ran wild after he spent hours in the hospital treating a “preexisting foot condition.” White House officials said Cheney was retaining fluid in response to medication he was on. But further details on what the mysterious foot condition was remain murky.
“He has occasional bouts with inflammation in his left foot, sometimes in the heel, which has been diagnosed as tendinitis, sometimes in the joint of his big toe, which has not been definitively diagnosed,” spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride wrote in an e-mail, which was later reported by the Los Angeles Times. “Some doctors have suggested it might be gout, but he does not suffer from the acute pain usually associated with gout…”
Don Nelson is a renowned coach and athlete. He spent 14 years as a player in the NBA and more than 30 years on the sidelines as a coach, says Healthgrades.com. He also did two stints as head coach of the Golden State Warriors.
It was revealed during an interview with the New York Times that Nelson has gout after he told the reporter he celebrated his 1,200th win at home with “one cigar and one beer because he has gout.”
King Henry VIII
He once reigned over Britain, but even all the power and wealth in the world could not prevent him from developing gout. In fact, gout was historically known as a “rich man’s disease” because many believed it was caused by a “rich” diet (meat and alcohol) that could only be afforded by the wealthy. It’s actually caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joint.
Instances like King Henry VIII who was consistently dealing with painful gout attacks helped propel the rich man’s disease theory. “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),” writes Health.com.
Former Australian football player (now a coach and manager), Harry Kewell was suspected of having a gout attack in 2006. He woke up unable to walk ahead of an important game against Italy in the World Cup. His diagnosis was kept secret in hopes that it would eventually get better and be able to play.
Unfortunately it didn’t and he missed out on 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,” says teammate Scott Chipperfield to BBC Sport.
Samuel Johnson might not be a celebrity known to the masses, but he was at one time. This British author and poet lived from 1709 to 1784. Historians were able to learn that he actually suffered from gout. In fact, doctors even labeled it as such in 1775 when reached the age of 65.
“The gout has treated me with more severity than any former time; it however never climbed higher than my ankles,” says Johnson to William Bowles in 1783, according to Health.com.