People living with gout apparently like to talk about it. With over 54,000 likes, the Gout Study on Facebook page has become the world’s largest online community on the subject of gout – a painful form of arthritis. The growth of that community, in just over a year, also reflects the increasing role and power of social media.
Once labeled as a “rich man’s disease” — due to indulging in fine food and drink — that perception of gout is no longer a reality. Gout can affect people from all walks of life, income and stature. About six million Americans report having gout symptoms – most often a painful swelling of the big toe.
“Our collective goal in establishing this community was to advance gout treatments, so people with gout can eventually live life to its fullest without the fear of the next more painful gout attack,” said Liz Moench, President and CEO of MediciGlobal, an international corporation that brings opportunities for clinical research to millions of people.
Through Gout Study’s website and Facebook page, gout sufferers can obtain news, wellness, health, and clinical research information about gout. Gout Study Facebook “fans” can also converse with each other and share ideas on how to live better with the condition. About 25 percent of the members of the Gout Study Facebook group live outside the United States. The site’s unique page views has exceeded 13 million.
“While there are other gout communities on the Internet, the Gout Study page stands out because of its ability to unite gout sufferers globally, not just in the United States,” said Nick Halkitis, Global VP of Online Marketing and Digital Strategies at MediciGlobal. “23 percent of our community resides outside of the U.S. in countries such as Argentina, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, France, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, and the United Kingdom, among others.”
Gout is caused by excess uric acid that crystalizes in a joint. As many sufferers can attest, one of the most common symptoms of gout is waking up at night feeling like your big toe is on fire. Gout attacks can also include swelling, redness, intense pain, and tenderness that can radiate to the ankle, foot, and knees. Attacks can last from several days to weeks, and each subsequent attack becomes more painful. Over time, untreated gout can lead to kidney stones and permanent kidney and joint damage.
Risk factors for gout include:
- Drinking too much beer or alcohol
- Eating too much meat or shellfish
- Lack of exercise or being overweight
- Being male between 40 and 50 years of age
- Having a family member with gout
- Being a post menopausal women
- Taking diuretics
Treatment of gout pain includes ice applied to the affected area, as well as anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids. Drugs, changes in diet and consumption of apples, bananas and lemon juice can also reduce uric acid levels.