Gout is a common, complex, systemic and well-studied form of chronic inflammatory arthritis in adults. It is due to the deposition of sodium monourate crystals in peripheral joints and periarticular tissues driven by hyperuricemia. Gout is the oldest recorded inflammatory arthritis to affect humankind, with roots stretching back to 2460 BC. It is known as “the rich man’s disease”, “the patrician malady”, “a disease of plenty”, “disease of kings”, “disease of Western Society”, and also “a life-style disease”. Few studies have addressed the problem of gout among popes, affluent people who usually live longer than their contemporaries and are among the most scrutinized persons. Pius X (1835-1914) was the last pope with gout.
Gout seems to have affected 26 out of 265 popes (9.81%) from Saint Peter to Benedict XVI (34-2013 AD). The first was Gregory I Magnus, who was pope in the years 590-604, the last was Pius X, who reigned from 1903 to 1914 at age 79. Their age at death was 71.7 ±9.2 years (Mean ± SD). All popes were elderly men, some had voracious appetites and/or were wine drinkers. Several were sedentary and obese, while others were sober eaters, who took long walks or went riding. Chiragra (arthritic pain in the hands), podagra (arthritic pain in the big toe) and renal stone disease were among the most frequent disturbances.
The causes of death, due to CKD, strokes and infections are discussed along with the fact that gout disappeared from the Vatican Palace on August 22, 1914. However, in accordance with the Theory of Epidemiological Transition, gout seems likely to become a problem for the general population, increasingly adopting unhealthy lifestyle choices, in the absence of a correct education.
Keywords: gout, popes, Pius X, renal death, death due to infection, death due to stroke