man with gout rests his foot on a stool with the slipper slit to accommodate the painful swelling.

This gentleman looks none too happy to have gout. He rests his foot on a stool with the slipper slit to accommodate the painful swelling.

Hulton Archive/Stringer/Getty Images

Gout may not sound like much to those who have never experienced it. The most common symptom of this form of arthritis, which strikes more men than women, is pain in the big toe. Those who have suffered through a stubbed toe may scoff at this, right? However, the pain of gout is so severe that it may cripple the sufferer; even the slightest breeze on the tender spot may cause him or her to cry out in anguish. And though the big toe is the most common place for gout-related pain, the unbearable aching may spread to the ankles, wrists and elbows, among other joints.

If you've ever experienced an attack of the gout, you're in good company. Men as esteemed as Benjamin Franklin, Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton all suffered from it [source: Gower]. Perhaps the most famous sufferer of gout was Henry VIII of England, who in addition to being insatiable in terms of wives was also quite the glutton. Each night, he'd enjoy a side of venison washed down by multiple glasses of wine. This diet of alcohol and meat, particularly organ meats like livers and kidneys, may contribute to gout. For this reason, gout has long been considered "the disease of kings," because historically, they were the only ones who could afford such a decadent diet. Now, however, many of us can indulge in a fatty Western diet, and gout affects many more people -- approximately 3 million Americans, in fact [source: Payne].

What these modern day gout sufferers have that the kings of old did not is the drug Zyloprim, which is the marketing name for allopurinol. Allopurinol has been the foundation of most gout treatments since it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1966 [source: Pacher et al.].

Gout occurs when a person can no longer rid excess uric acid from the bloodstream. What does this mean, and how can Zyloprim help?