What is high uric acid level?
Uric acid is a waste product found in blood. It’s created when the body breaks down chemicals called purines. Most uric acid dissolves in the blood, passes through the kidneys and leaves the body in urine. Food and drinks high in purines also increase the level of uric acid. These include:
- Seafood (especially salmon, shrimp, lobster and sardines)
- Red meat
- Organ meats like liver
- Food and drinks with high fructose corn syrup, and alcohol (especially beer, including non-alcoholic beer)
If too much uric acid stays in the body, a condition called hyperuricemia will occur. Hyperuricemia can cause crystals of uric acid (or urate) to form. These crystals can settle in the joints and cause gout, a form of arthritis that can be very painful. They can also settle in the kidneys and form kidney stones.
If untreated, high uric acid levels may eventually lead to permanent bone, joint and tissue damage, kidney disease and heart disease. Research has also shown a link between high uric acid levels and type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and fatty liver disease.
How are high uric acid and gout diagnosed?
A blood sample is taken and tested to determine the level of uric acid. If you pass a kidney stone or have one surgically removed, the stone itself might be tested to see if it is a uric acid stone or a stone of a different type. Finding an elevated blood uric acid level is NOT the same as diagnosing gouty arthritis. To diagnose definite gout, the uric acid crystals must be seen in the fluid taken from a swollen joint or seen by special imaging of the bones and joints (ultrasound, X-ray or CAT scan).
Care and Treatment
How is high uric level treated?
If you’re having a gout attack, medication can be used to reduce the inflammation, pain and swelling. You should drink plenty of fluids, but avoid alcohol and sweet soft drinks. Ice and elevation are helpful.
Kidney stones may eventually pass out of the body in urine. Drinking more fluid is important. Try to drink at least 64 ounces daily (8 glasses at eight ounces a piece). Water is best.
Your doctor may also prescribe medications that help stones pass by relaxing the muscles in the ureter, the duct that urine passes through to get from the kidney to the bladder.
If the stone is too large to pass, blocks the flow of urine or causes an infection, it might be necessary to surgically remove the stone.
Can high uric acid level be managed and prevented?
High uric acid level can be managed and flares in the joint pain controlled and stopped with a long-term program of disease management. Your doctor can prescribe medications that dissolve the deposits of uric acid crystals. A lifelong urate-lowering therapy may be needed, with medications that prevent gout flares and ultimately dissolve crystals that are already in your body.
Other ways to help control high uric acid levels include:
- Losing weight, if necessary
- Watching what you eat (limit your intake of fructose corn syrup, organ meats, red meat, fish, and alcoholic beverages)
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