Have you ever asked yourself, “Why is my big toe red, hot and swollen?” This time of year brings on many podiatric issues. And, eating at holiday parties can bring on one of the most painful issues ― gout.

Gout has been around throughout history and even has been called the “Rich Man’s Disease” due to the high levels of proteins that used to be consumed only by “rich, older men.” Gout usually appears as a swollen, red and painful big toe joint immediately after eating certain foods high in purines or protein and/or drinking alcohol or high-fructose drinks. Some of the foods that may precipitate a gout attack include beef, fish, beans, spinach or any legume type food that is high in purines.

Even medication, such as diuretics, can cause gout. Middle-aged men and post-menopausal women are usually affected the most. The pain is severe. Even the rubbing of a bed sheet can cause pain to the toe. Gout can appear in any joint, but the big toe joint is usually where it strikes.

Uric Acid is the culprit causing gout. Its crystals form in the joint, which, in turn, causes the pain ― because the body is not excreting the uric acid correctly.

The prevalence of gout is increasing. It is estimated that more than six million Americans have gout. Studies show that one has about a 20 percent chance of gout if one of his  or her parents has gout.

Common therapies include allopurinol to lower one’s uric acid and a very strong non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) called Indocin. Cortisone injection to the joint can be beneficial for quicker relief to break up the uric acid crystals. However, other steps must be taken, and one of the most important steps is changing one’s diet and/or reducing alcohol consumption. Some new, ongoing studies show cherries might be a non-medicinal treatment to gout.

So if you take that extra shrimp this holiday, and your big toe joint starts to hurt, don’t forget about gout. If you are showing signs of gout, please see your physician for possible blood work and evaluation.

For more information about gout and/or Put Your Feet First, a podiatrist in the Scottsdale area, visit azfootpain.com.