WIDESPREAD in the Victorian times, gout, is rearing its head again in Swindon with a 28 per cent rise in hospital admissions in the last year - and it could all be down to the town’s status as the fat capital of Europe.

Common in the 1800s among the wealthy, due to their rich diet of red meat, alcohol and sweets, the condition is now growing in the town with 25 admissions to the Great Western Hospital in 2013-2014, compared to 18 in 2012-2013, according to the latest figures released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

Although not alarming yet, these statistics could increase further as obesity levels continue to grow.

Gout is a type of arthritis caused by a build-up of uric acid in the blood. The acid may cause tiny crystals of sodium urate to form in and around joints.

The most common symptom is sudden and severe pain in the joint, along with swelling and redness. The joint of the big toe is commonly affected, but it can develop in any joint.

While some people may be more prone to develop gout if they have kidney problems, for example, or are undergoing cancer treatment like chemotherapy, the majority of cases are lifestyle-related.

The elderly are also more at risk as their kidneys do not function as well as they used to with age.

Unless people are aware of the consequences of an unhealthy diet, they may be at risk of gout according to GWH consultant rheumatologist Lyn Williamson.

“I suspect it’s going up probably because there are more elderly people,” she said.

“When you get older your kidneys don’t work as well so you are more prone to it into old age.

“But for a majority of people it’s lifestyle related.

“A healthier diet, no beer and plenty of hydration can help decrease uric acid by 15 per cent.”

Between 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 gout admissions in England rose by four per cent to 5,560.

From the illness of the rich, gout nowadays tends to affect more deprived populations.

“In the Victorian times rich people had gout because they had red meat, wine and rich food, and now unfortunately our population has changed and it’s poorer people that are eating excessively who get it.

“It’s mostly diets of steak, beer, fizzy drinks and sweetened drinks.

“Swindon is the fat capital of Europe. Ten or 14 years ago the average BMI was 28/30 and it’s now 30/33.”

Symptoms develop rapidly and are at their worst point in just 6 to 24 hours. They usually last up to ten days.

She added: “Gout is unbelievably painful. It’s like a volcano erupting.

“The increase is probably due to lifestyle, demographic and the fact that maybe people don’t tolerate pain and come to hospital instead of seeing their GP.

“If it’s lifestyle-related, you can cure it by changing your life-style.”