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When your foot is red, swollen and hurts like crazy, what could it be?

Imagine waking up at night with a swollen big toe so sensitive that even the weight of your sheets is painful. What could it be?
/ Source: TODAY

Imagine waking up in the middle of the night and your big toe is swollen and so sensitive that even the weight of your sheets is painful. What could it be?

It’s a symptom of gout, a condition that used to be caused “the disease of kings” because of its link to high amounts of rich foods like meat, seafood and beer. One of the first signs is a very painful swelling, redness and warmth in in the big toe or the ankle or knee.

But while diet is a factor in gout flare-ups, it’s now known to be the body’s inability to get rid of uric acids in the blood.

Gout affects at least 4 percent of American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Risk factors include: being overweight; hypertension; excessive consumption of beer or hard liquor; and poor kidney function. The flare-ups can last for days or weeks, followed by long periods without symptoms.

Related: 4 foods to eat more of, 6 to avoid for a healthy heart

Losing weight and eating a heart-healthy diet —whole grains, vegetables and limiting saturated fats — are ways you can ease gout symptoms. According to the Arthritis Foundation, known triggers include: red meat, sugary beverages and shellfish such as shrimp or lobster.

Watch the “Ask a Doctor” video with rheumatologist Dr. Natalie Azar for more about gout’s causes and treatment.

Related: Do women have different heart attack symptoms? Dr. Natalie weighs in