What is Uric Acid?
A lot of people associate uric acid with gout and kidney diseases. Uric acid is commonly described as the by-product of purine that flows through the blood and is filtered by the kidneys and flushed out from the body through urination.
Purine can be obtained from food and drinks, and even from natural cells from the body. Some food items contain more purine than others. When the uric acid level of the body reaches above the normal rate, the condition is called hyperuricemia. But really, what is uric acid?
During the natural process of uric acid, it forms into ions and salts known as urates and acid urates. Uric acids are white, odorless and tasteless substances. They are very weak organic acids that are barely soluble in water and insoluble in alcohol and ether.
Good and Bad Uric Acid
Despite the many negative connotations associated with uric acid, it actually has a desirable function for the body. Uric acid, when present in the body at normal levels, is a very powerful antioxidant.
An antioxidant is essential in making sure that free radicals do not reach certain components of the body, such as DNA or cell membranes, and prevent a chain reaction of damages.
In this case, uric acid as an antioxidant is known to improve lifespan and prevent aging. Uric acid also prevents oxygenation of lipids in the bloodstream, thus preventing it from destroying organs, bones, muscles, and tissues. As an antioxidant, it helps prevent heart diseases from occurring and inhibits the formation of cancerous tumors.
Image credit: www.chm.bris.ac.uk
However, due to lifestyle, uric acid is known to do more harm than good since a lot of people are unable to eat a balanced diet that soon leads to excessive amounts of uric acid in the body. While the normal level of uric acid in the body should only be at 7mg/dL for the average man, risks occur when uric acid starts to circulate the body in excess.
These risks include the highly associated type of arthritis with high uric acid, known as gout. This is when needle-like crystals form in the joints resulting in swelling and pain. Chronic kidney diseases also start to manifest, such as the formation of kidney stones and kidney failure.
Uric acid is an inevitable part of the human body that is supposed to function for its benefit. However, everything in excess is never good. That is why people having gout and kidney problems should start reassessing lifestyles, especially eating habits.
Meals should start excluding foods that lead to high uric acid levels such as organ meats, anchovies, the meat of wild games, and alcoholic beverages like beer.
What the diet should include now are food items low in uric acid or those that help lower uric acid levels of the body. These include milk, eggs, tofu, fruits and fruit juices, and an increase in water intake.
If diet alone cannot eliminate the symptoms of high uric acid level, a doctor should be sought. They can provide drugs that help minimize the uric acid flowing through the body either by blocking further production or by increasing uric acid elimination from the body.
What Causes High Uric Acid in the Body?
High uric acid in the body causes gout attacks, kidney stone formation, kidney failure, high blood pressure and even as complicated as heart diseases. But what causes high uric acid?
There are several reasons for uric acid levels to go beyond normal or necessary amounts. Here are the top six reasons.
The first reason is genetics. High uric acid levels are known to be hereditary. Some of the diseases that are related to high uric acid levels are hereditary, making it possible for hyperuricemia – having high uric acid levels in the body, to be passed on to the next generation.
Gout for one is a hereditary ailment that is highly associated with high uric acid levels. Other diseases include metabolic disorders. Improper function of the body’s metabolism can result in overproduction or inadequate excretion of uric acids from the body.
The second cause of high uric acid is diet. Uric acid is a result of the body’s metabolism of purine, a substance that can be found in almost all foods.
These foods include basic meal ingredients such as pork, beef, and poultry for meat; legumes, mushrooms, and spinach for vegetables. High-purine diets lead to excess production of uric acid that the body cannot keep up with in flushing out.
The third cause for high uric acid levels is alcohol intake. Alcohol impedes removal of uric acid in the body because it is metabolized into lactic acid that competes with uric acid in the kidney for its excretion through urine.
Since there is an increase in lactic acid, chances of elimination of uric acid are diminished thus, greater levels of uric acid remain in the body.
Beer, in particular, is the strongest trigger for high uric acid production in the body. Hard spirits also contribute greatly to uric acid production. Wine also increases uric acid level but in minimal amounts.
The fourth cause is the pre-existing conditions of the body. A healthy body, living a healthy lifestyle, can manage to properly eliminate waste, including uric acid.
However, when a body is experiencing certain conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol to name a few, the body is unable to function normally.
Thus, functions important to control the production and elimination of uric acid from the body, are also compromised.
In relation to this, the fifth cause for high uric acid levels in the body is medication. Certain drugs that supposedly help in curing pre-existing conditions of the body like high blood pressure has the side effect of increasing uric acid levels.
Even basic drugs like aspirin, have the effect of minimizing uric acid excretion. Aside from these, treatments such as chemotherapy increase the production of purine thus increasing uric acid levels.
Lastly, it is one’s lifestyle that greatly affects the increase or decrease of uric acid levels in the body. Choosing to abuse the body’s system can lead to serious consequences.
Taking for granted proper exercise, living a sedentary lifestyle and forgetting to ensure a healthy and balanced diet, lead to bodily malfunctions like kidney failures. These are what causes high uric acid in the body and these are the things that you should start changing.
High Uric Acid Symptoms
Uric acid is a by-product of purine metabolism. Purine is naturally found in the body as well as in the food sources available to humans. Inside the body, there is a continuous process of regeneration and dying of cells. When these cells die, they break down into different chemical compounds, one of which is purine. Thus, the body will always contain uric acid.
An average adult man should maintain uric acid levels below 7mg/dL. When uric acid production of the body is in excess, this condition is known as hyperuricemia. To determine this condition, there should be awareness of uric acid symptoms.
A condition called asymptomatic hyperuricemia is the state wherein the human body is not affected by high levels of uric acid in the body.
As a result, the body does not manifest the usual symptoms of high uric acid levels. This particular case could mean that the person has a higher tolerance to uric acid complications and that its body is able to cope up with the excessive uric acid production by keeping up with its elimination from the body via urine and stool.
This exemption, however, is not benefited by all. For most people, once uric acid level rises above the normal level, uric acid symptoms are experienced. Some of these symptoms include swelling or inflammation, redness, and pain that usually occurs in the joints. These are tiny signs that soon lead to gout.
Know the High Uric Acid Symptoms
Image Credit: Wikipedia
Gout, or gouty arthritis, is the most prominent condition when one has high uric acid. It is a type of arthritis which is caused by the crystallization of uric acid, called urates. Gout crystals are needle-like, causing pain inside the area affected. It is also unbearably painful when the outside surface of the affected area is touched, causing difficulties for movement.
Kidney stone formation is also a manifestation of uric acid. Since the kidney functions as the filter of the body’s blood, it often happens that uric acids clutter and form stone-like deposits inside it. Other chemicals contribute to kidney stone formation but uric acid contributes a greater percentage.
When these stones form, the body will start to experience painful urination, foul-smelling urine, and pain in the abdomen and groin area.
Some researchers say that high uric acid levels are also connected with hypertension and heart diseases. While it is true that these conditions are paired with high uric acid levels, it is still undetermined whether lowering the uric acid level could counteract against these diseases.
In order to control uric acid in the body, a healthy and balanced diet is necessary. Since purines are found in food, it is best to start cooking up meals that exclude purine-rich foods and instead make use of food items that have minimal purine content. It is purine that should be assessed since it is from purine that uric acid is derived.
For situations far worse, one should consult a doctor immediately. While diet can very much help lower uric acid levels of the body, other complications might be needing attention, such as chronic kidney diseases and heart diseases.
Knowing About Uric Acid Levels in the Blood
Normal Uric Acid Levels in the Blood
One of the most common problems encountered by people when it comes to health is the problem of maintaining normal uric acid levels. This is difficult to balance because of a few reasons.
For one, studies have proven that uric acid levels are at times hereditary in nature since purine, the metabolism of which is the reason for the production of uric acid can be naturally obtained by the body through the death of cells, also a natural course of the body.
Another reason is that purine is also present in all food items, hence, intake of food means intake of purine. Worse, most of the food items that you enjoy in the everyday diet are those that contain more purine like meat, meat organs, seafood, and even certain vegetables like spinach and mushrooms.
In relation to this, lifestyles that invoke stress, inadequate exercise and unhealthy diet, not only increase the uric acid production of the body but also hinder uric acid elimination of the body, thus, trapping uric acids inside the blood circulation until they start forming into salts and stones that lead to complications.
Image credit: ethnichealthcourt.com
These complications include gout, the number one ailment related to high uric acid levels, kidney diseases like kidney stones and kidney failures, and even with alcoholism and dehydration.
With the importance of finding out how to maintain normal uric acid levels in your body and prevent or medicate the complications it brings, standardizing the normal uric acid levels are tedious because they vary from person to person, depending on the condition and body’s natural reaction to uric acid.
Normal Uric Acid Range
Despite this, averages of normal uric acid levels are established as a guide. Male children between the ages 10-18 should have 3.6-5.5 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) while female children of the same age bracket should only have 3.6-4 mg/dL.
Increase in allowable uric acid levels occurs during the adult years. Male adults can go between 2.0 – 7.5 mg/dL while female adults are at a lower range of 2.0 – 6.5 mg/dL.
Males older than 40 years old go between 2.0 – 8.5 mg/dL while females older than 40 years old range from 2.0 – 8.0 mg/dL, increasing as menopause is reached.
A special case for pregnant women is to be observed. During the first trimester, they should not reach beyond 5mg/dL of uric acid to prevent complications. After pregnancy, the normal uric acid level can go back to the normal range which is based on the female’s age.
On an overall basis, a daily amount of uric acid should be between 250 – 750 mg. This amount should be observed over a 24-hour period. Two-thirds of the uric acid content of the body should be released every day via the kidney and the remaining one-third should be excreted in the stool.
Failure or minimal excretion of uric acid on a daily basis via urine and stool will compromise the normal uric acid levels of the body and could start the excessive presence of the substance in the blood and lead to hyperuricemia and then to other illnesses.
Effects of High Uric Acid in Blood
Uric acid is known to circulate the body through blood. The effects of high uric acid in the blood are complicated in their own respect. High uric acid in blood leads to the formation of uric acid crystals in joints, causing pain and resulting in gout.
Difficult thing is, once a body has experienced gout attacks, the chances of repeated gout attacks that could further lead to damaged joints and malfunctioning of kidneys, is higher.
It is, therefore, best to understand the effects of high uric acid in the blood and how one could eliminate gout using natural methods before settling for drugs.
High uric acid in the blood is a condition known as hyperuricemia. When this state is uncontrolled, sooner or later, it could lead to the production of uric acid crystals or urates, they flow in the system through the blood, finding their way and settling in the joints and surrounding tissue.
Urates are foreign substances to the system that are shaped like needles. Their formation in the joints causes alarm for the natural defenses of the body and their counteractions against these crystals actually cause what are known to be gout symptoms – swelling, redness, inflammation, drying skin on the surface area of the affected joint, and very terrible pain.
Image credit: nursingcrib.com
The pain that gout brings is very painful that, depending on which joint has been attacked by the urates, immobility is the next best thing the human body could do, since even the slightest of touch could send shards of pain to the body.
Cheaper and natural remedies are at everyone’s disposal that helps fight gout attacks and stop them from frequently recurring.
Fruits are the best source of vitamins and minerals that help in increasing the immune systems’ defenses and fight of high uric acid in the blood. Vegetables are also essential sources of natural supplements.
Apart from these, starting on the right diet certainly brings uric acid levels back to the normal range. Since purine, the substance that uric acid is metabolized form, is present in almost all foods, it is best to be wary of food items that have high purine content so as to minimize, if not eliminate, the intake of such food items. These purine-high foods include meat, seafood, and even vegetables like asparagus, spinach, and mushrooms.
In addition, beer intake should be avoided as much as possible. Beer triggers gout attacks almost instantly because beer produces lactic acids that automatically takes over the body, resulting in the body’s prioritization of its elimination over that of uric acid. In turn, uric acid is retained in the body in greater numbers causing gout attacks to occur.
Also, frequent alcohol intake causes damage to the kidneys, the organ of the body that plays a vital role in waste elimination. Destroyed kidneys could only mean severe malfunctions in the waste excretion flow of the body, heightening the chances of gout attack and other hyperuricemia symptoms like kidney stone formation.
When all natural ways of fighting off high uric acid in the blood are no longer effective, it is best to consult a doctor to find out which drugs can help your body counter hyperuricemia and would have the minimal side effects for your body’s condition.
Implications of High Uric Acid in Urine
One way of detecting the uric acid level of the body is through examining if there is a presence of high uric acid in urine. That can be done through a uric acid urine test.
Uric acid is a natural by-product of purine. It is produced through the natural breakdown of this chemical compound.
Purine exists naturally in the human body as well as our food. Purines not only function as producers of uric acid but also help in the production of energy and the protein needs of the body.
Purine-rich foods include meat, seafood, and alcoholic beverages. Even vegetables have purine in them, such as mushrooms, spinach, and asparagus.
Uric acid is removed from the body via the kidneys in the form of urine. Two-thirds of uric acid is processed in the kidney, passed through the ureter, then the bladder and excreted through urine. The remaining one-third of uric acid is processed in the renal system of the body and is excreted in the form of stool.
Having high uric acid in urine can mean two things. One that the body’s uric acid level is indeed above the normal uric acid level, and two, it is a sign that the kidneys are functioning well.
Having high uric acid in urine is a better condition since it could only mean that the body is still capable of properly excreting the uric acid produced by the body. This condition can be very much helped by starting a lifestyle to help bring the uric acid level back to the normal range.
Malfunction of Kidneys
On the other hand, when uric acid in the urine is low, it could sometimes mean that the kidneys are not able to remove it from the blood at a normal rate. This can be confirmed if there is high uric acid in the blood but there is low uric acid in the urine.
High uric acid in the blood already confirms the fact that the body is producing too much uric acid and this should also reflect in the uric acid level in the urine.
When this is not the case, it only implies that there is a kidney problem since the body is not able to flush out high uric acid levels despite being confirmed that there is too much uric acid level in the body.
When the kidney is unable to normally excrete uric acid, this could result in clogging up of the uric acid inside the system, particularly in the blood.
When this happens, the body will start to experience symptoms of gout and other complications – redness, swelling, dryness in the skin and pain both from the inside and outside surface of the area affected.
Seek for A Doctor
Consulting the doctor is the next best step in a situation like this. The doctor can provide drugs like Alluporinol that can help in lowering uric acid levels of the body while at the same time give medications for any kidney problems that your body is experiencing.
A change of diet is also called for, making sure that purine-rich foods and alcohol intake are avoided.
Understanding Uric Acid Kidney Stones
The existence of uric acid in the body was first found out through isolation from kidney stones. Since then, the causal relationship of uric acid to kidney stone formation was established, resulting in what is now known as uric acid kidney stones.
What are Uric Acid Kidney Stones?
Uric acid kidney stones are but just one form of kidney stones in the body. This is a result of the saturation of uric acid in the blood that inevitably leads to its crystallization in the kidney.
Uric acid kidney stones are known to be radiolucent, making it undetectable by abdominal plain x-rays. They are, however, easily seen with the use of ultrasound.
Special instances of uric acid kidney stones are only detectable by plain x-rays when they have turned into very large kidney stones, large enough to displace the surrounding kidney tissues of the body.
Uric acid kidney stones are also referred to as uric acid urolithiasis. This diagnosis is confirmed when significant amounts of stones are found in the renal pelvis, ureter, and bladder. They are usually found in the form of urates, the salt formation of uric acid.
The unfortunate thing about having kidney stones is that once you are diagnosed with the presence of one, the tendency is, there would be a few other stones, depending on how high your body’s uric acid level has been.
These stones could range from the size of sand to the size of a golf ball and its surface could either be smooth or jagged.
Once uric acid kidney stones in the body are found, they should be removed and future occurrences should be avoided.
How to Prevent Uric Acid Kidney Stones Formation?
Uric acid kidney stones can be prevented by starting a low-purine diet and minimizing acids of the body to avoid having acidic urine.
Low-purine diet means avoiding purine-rich foods that include organ meats, fish meats like that of anchovies and herring, seafood like scallops and mussels, and drinking too much alcohol.
What one should include more in the diet are foods such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, tofu, and low-fat dairy products, especially milk and yogurt.
Dairy products significantly lower the number of uric acid levels of the body while ensuring the right amount of calcium intake.
Increasing fluid intake also helps in the prevention of uric acid kidney stone formation. Water, to be precise, should be taken by the body more frequently.
Acidic beverages, however, should be taken in smaller dosages since acidic drinks could lead to acidic urine that also contributes to uric acid kidney formation.
Water on the other hand not only helps the body flush out more and more waste, but it also counteracts against the acidity level of the body.
Water will dilute the concentration of uric acid kidney stone formation. Drinking more water ensures more urine output thus enabling the system to flush out diluted uric acid from the body, hampering their chances of forming into harmful kidney stones.
The kidney is an essential organ of the body that plays an important role in waste elimination. When malfunctions such as the presence of uric acid kidney stones occur, your body could experience terrible illnesses. Hence, you should always be wary of it and know how to prevent it.
Getting Yourself Checked With The Blood Uric Acid Test
If you are starting to have joint pains or swelling, or having difficulty urinating, your doctor may ask you to get a uric acid test – why?
Uric acid is a byproduct from the breakdown of purine, a chemical compound needed for the production of our genes. Uric acid is considered as a waste product by the body. Hence, it gets excreted through the urine as a compound called urea.
Problems with the kidneys interfere with this normal process, thereby causing an increase in the level of uric acid in your blood, medically known as hyperuricemia.
However, kidney problems aren’t the only cause of hyperuricemia. It may also be just a result of an overproduction of purine due to high intake of purine-rich foods. That is why your doctor may want to ask you to go through a uric acid blood test as well as a urine test to rule out the factors.
How the Test is Done
If you’re afraid of needles, you’re going to have to go through that before you can get your uric acid blood test. The test involves a venipuncture, or the puncturing of a vein to extract blood. Keep in mind though that certain medications alter the results.
Hence, it is wise to stay away or refrain from taking these medications prior to checking your blood uric acid level.
ethnichealthcourt.comDrugs that increase blood uric acid level:
Drugs that decrease blood uric acid level:
Because these drugs alter the results, doctors may recommend that you avoid taking these drugs at least 4 hours prior to the test. For the urine test, you need not restrict any oral fluid intake prior to the test.
Analysis of the Results
Uric acid in the blood is measured as milligrams per deciliter or mg/dL. With this, medical experts have established a normal range for blood uric acid.
- Men: 3.4 – 7.0
- Women: 2.4 – 6.0
- Children: 2.5 – 5.5
However, the normal range can vary from laboratory to laboratory. It depends upon the calibration of their instruments or an established protocol.
Whatever the calibration may be, either an increase or decrease in the normal level of the blood uric acid reflects a certain condition of the body.
A uric acid test that depicts an elevated result may indicate that you may be having some painful arthritis as that with gouty arthritis.
Conditions like kidney stones may cause the problem too which can be confirmed through the urine uric acid test. A decreased level of uric acid may indicate problems with the liver or some certain type of cancer.
Moreover, it is also indicative of a problem called Syndrome of Inappropriate Anti-Diuretic Hormone (SIADH) – a problem that causes water retention leading to edema, or swelling of the body.
Having your uric acid checked through a uric acid blood test is a wise thing to do for you to know what to adjust in your diet or lifestyle. However, you need not wait for an elevated or decreased result for you to take action. You should have, by now, a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet for a healthier, more prosperous life.