The condition is caused by uric acid, a waste product made by the body Normally uric acid is flushed out of the body through the kidneys and urine. When an individual has too much of this waste product the acid produces crystals that typically deposit in the joints. Such deposits cause inflammation resulting in swelling, tenderness and pain in the affected area.
In his later years Cassius M. Clay had his bedroom placed in the Library on the first floor of White Hall so that he would not have to manage the steps. Although plagued with gout, Cassius was still capable of defending himself. One evening he fought off three intruders, killing two of them at the ripe old age of 89!
Other famous individuals afflicted with gout include Samuel Johnson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Milton, who died as a result of complications from the condition and reportedly once told a friend that if he did not have gout pain his blindness would be bearable.