Why Does Gout Attack the Big Toe?

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Gout tends to attack the big toe because the uric acid crystals that cause the condition are sensitive to temperature, according to Dr. Craig H. Thomajan of Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists. Uric acid crystalizes under cooler temperatures, and the toes are the coolest part of the body.

While gout commonly appears in the big toe, especially during a first attack, this form of arthritis can affect any joint, notes Mayo Clinic. The feet, ankles, knees, hands and wrists are all potential sites of attack. Affected joints become hot, red and swollen, and there may be decreased joint mobility as the attack progresses. Pain is severe and is often at its worse between four and 12 hours after the onset of an attack.

Treatment involves the use of medications to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation in the affected area, according to Dr. Thomajan. These may be given orally or by injection. Additionally, limiting the consumption of foods high in purines helps reduce uric acid levels in the body. Purines are metabolized into uric acid and are found in shellfish, organ meats, red meats and alcoholic beverages, such as beer and red wine.

Obesity, a family history of gout, certain medications and recent surgery or trauma are among the risk factors for gout, states Mayo Clinic. Men are more commonly affected than women.