Uric acid is a natural waste product produced by your body when it breaks down certain foods and drinks.
While it is normally filtered out by your kidneys, an excess of it can lead to a host of health issues.
In this blog post, we’ll explore what uric acid is, its symptoms, causes and treatment options, as well as the importance of managing its levels.
What is Uric Acid?
Uric acid is a waste product produced when your body breaks down purines, which are molecules found in certain foods.
It is normally dissolved in your bloodstream and then excreted through your kidneys in urine.
However, if your body produces too much serum urate or if your kidneys are unable to adequately filter it out, the level of serum urate in your blood increases, leading to a condition known as hyperuricemia.
This can lead to a host of health issues, including gout and kidney stones.
It is important to recognise the early signs and symptoms of high UA levels so that they can be treated without a delay.
Treatment typically involves lifestyle changes and medications, as well as dietary changes to reduce your purine intake.
What are the Normal Uric Acid Levels?
The normal range for uric acid levels in the blood is between 2.6 and 6.0 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) for women, and between 3.4 and 7.2 mg/dL for men.
These normal ranges can differ marginally depending on the laboratory and the specific methods used to measure your uric acid levels.
Symptoms of High Uric Acid Levels
High uric acid levels, also known as hyperuricemia, may not always produce symptoms. It is called asymptomatic hyperuricemia.
However, some people may experience the following symptoms:
This is a type of arthritis that is caused by the buildup of urate crystals in your joints. It can cause intense pain, swelling and redness in the affected joint(s), usually in the big toe, ankle or knee.
Gout attacks can be triggered by consuming purine-rich foods, alcohol or certain medications such as diuretics.
Urate crystals can accumulate in your kidneys and form stones, which can cause pain in your back, side, groin or abdomen. They can also cause difficulty in urinating and blood in your urine.
These are small, hard nodules that can form under your skin, often around your joints or your ears, as a result of the accumulation of serum urate crystals.
High Blood Pressure
Studies have presented convincing evidence suggesting that serum urate could play a causative role in certain types of hypertension.
High levels of serum urate in the bloodstream have been identified as an independent predictor for the onset of hypertension.
There are several factors that can contribute to high uric acid levels, such as:
Genetics: You may have a genetic predisposition to produce too much uric acid or have difficulty excreting it from your body.
Diet: Consuming large amounts of purine-rich foods and drinks, such as organ meats, shellfish and sugary beverages, can increase your UA levels.
Alcohol consumption: Drinking alcohol, especially beer, can increase uric acid production and decrease its excretion from your body.
Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as kidney disease, diabetes and hypothyroidism, can affect UA metabolism and cause hyperuricemia.
Obesity: Research studies have shown that elevated serum urate levels are tied to obesity.
Polycythemia vera: Polycythemia vera is a form of blood cancer that leads to the overproduction of red blood cells, which can increase the breakdown of purines in the body, resulting in higher levels of uric acid.
Psoriasis:People with psoriasis usually suffer from systemic inflammation in the body, which can lead to an increase in UA production.
Tumor lysis syndrome (TLS): Tumor lysis syndrome (TLS) is a condition that occurs when cancer cells die rapidly, releasing large amounts of uric acid, potassium, and phosphorus into the bloodstream. This can lead to a buildup of uric acid in the blood, as well as other metabolic imbalances.
Niacin: Niacin, a form of vitamin B3, can cause hyperuricemia, which increases the risk of gout. Therefore, it’s important to be cautious when taking niacin to manage your high cholesterol. If you are pregnant, you should avoid taking prescription niacin due to its possible risks for you.
Diuretics: Diuretics (water pills), which are used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure, heart failure and kidney disease.
Cyclosporine: Cyclosporine, an immunosuppressant used to prevent rejection after organ transplant surgery.
Pyrazinamide: Pyrazinamide, which is an antibiotic used to treat tuberculosis.
There are some specific steps involved in the diagnosis of high uric acid levels: These are:
Medical history: Your doctor will ask you about your medical history, family history and any symptoms you might be experiencing.
Physical exam: A physical exam may be performed to check for signs of gout, such as joint inflammation and pain.
Blood test: A simple blood test can measure the amount of uric acid in your blood. This is the most common way to diagnose hyperuricemia.
Urine test: A 24-hour urine test may be used to measure the amount of uric acid excreted in your urine. This can help determine if your kidneys are functioning properly.
Imaging studies: Imaging studies such as X-rays or ultrasound may be used to check for your joint damage or kidney stones.
Additional tests: Depending on the results of your blood test and other factors, additional tests may be recommended to help determine the underlying cause of your serum urate levels.
These may include tests to check for certain genetic mutations, kidney function tests or tests to check for underlying medical conditions such as metabolic syndrome or thyroid disorders.
How to Reduce Uric Acid Levels?
If you have high uric acid levels, there are several lifestyle changes and medications that can help reduce them. These include:
Make Diet Modifications
Limiting or avoiding purine-rich foods and drinks, such as red meat, seafood and sugary beverages, can help you reduce your serum urate levels.
Eating more fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products can help.
Losing weight, if you are overweight or obese, can help reduce your uric acid levels and decrease the risk of gout attacks.
There are several medications that can help lower your uric acid levels, such as allopurinol, probenecid and febuxostat.
These medications work by either decreasing your uric acid production or increasing its excretion from your body.
Since these are prescribed medications, it’s only your doctor who can recommend them to you.
Drink Water and Fluids
Drinking plenty of water and other fluids can help flush out uric acid from your body and prevent the formation of kidney stones.
Manage Blood Sugar
Elevated blood sugar levels can contribute to your insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, which, in turn, can increase your risk of hyperuricemia.
Managing your blood sugar levels through diet, exercise and medication can help lower your uric acid levels and reduce your risk of developing gout or other complications.
Add More Fiber to Diet
Fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, can help improve your insulin resistance and lower your blood sugar levels, which may in turn may reduce the risk of hyperuricemia.
Also, Fiber can also help promote your gut health and reduce your inflammation, which are also important factors in managing your UA levels.
Take Vitamin C
Vitamin C, an antioxidant, can help reduce your inflammation and improve the function of the endothelial cells lining blood vessels. This may, in turn, help improve your blood flow and reduce the risk of hyperuricemia.
Some studies have suggested that vitamin C supplementation may help reduce serum uric acid levels, although more research is needed to confirm these findings.
Uric acid is a waste product that can cause health problems if it accumulates in your bloodstream.
Causes of high uric acid levels include genetics, medication and diet.
Symptoms may include joint pain and swelling.
Treatment involves lifestyle changes, medication, and supplements. Speak to your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
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Sources: Cleveland Clinic, MedlinePlus, Mayo Clinic (1, 2), Healthline, PMC (1, 2, 3), Dovepress, VUMC News & Communications, ScienceDirect.