Doctors were surprised when Gina Beauchamp came to them at the age of 37 showing signs of gout, as it's rare for younger women to get it. That was more than 20 years ago, and she has now shared her unusual story.
"I was 37 years old when my fingers started to curl up like claws and my toes felt so painful that I couldn't move. I just thought I was extremely tired.
"My symptoms showed all the signs of gout, yet the doctors were unconvinced. Gout is rare in women and usually occurs after the menopause, when oestrogen levels have fallen.
"Eventually, my GP recognised that I had gout, probably a result of the hysterectomy I'd had one year before. It's thought that oestrogen protects women from gout, and my oestrogen levels had dropped after my ovaries were removed. My GP prescribed allopurinol, a medication that reduces the levels of uric acid (urate) in the blood and controls gout attacks. It really worked.
"I still take one tablet of allopurinol a day and I've managed to keep my gout under control for the last 10 years. I also eat very carefully. I don't have too much protein, like meat and fish, and I drink white wine rather than beer, which can trigger gout.
"Apparently, cherries are very good at preventing gout attacks, so I have these with porridge for breakfast every day. I also drink plenty of water and herbal teas to keep hydrated.
"However, I had a bad attack recently. I went to friends' houses for meals and ended up eating beef three nights in a row and drinking alcohol.
"The following Monday morning, I could hardly move. The gout seemed to affect all my joints, not just my fingers and toes. I felt like I'd been run over by a car, and my eyes felt as if they'd been punched out.
"For the next few days, I ate only vegetables and drank plenty of water, but I felt dreadful for days. The gout was so painful I couldn't even bear the bedclothes touching my skin.
"It's made me even more determined to identify what I can and can't eat. But other than my recent attack, the gout hasn't really affected my lifestyle."