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What is uric acid and possible causes for high levels

Uric acid is a substance formed by the body after the digestion of proteins, that creates a substance called purine, which then gives way to crystals of uric acid, which accumulate in the joints causing intense pain.

Usually uric acid does not cause any health problems being eliminated by the kidneys, but when there is a kidney problem, when the person ingests too many proteins or when the body produces excess uric acid, it accumulates in the joints, tendons and kidneys, giving Gouty Arthritis, also known popularly as Gout, which is a kind of very sore arthritis.

Excess uric acid has a cure because its imbalances can be controlled through a balanced diet, rich in water and poor in foods rich in proteins. In some cases, when there are very intense symptoms that take time to disappear, the doctor may indicate the use of specific remedies.

What is uric acid and possible causes for high levels

How to interpret uric acid exam

You can analyze uric acid levels through a blood or urine test and the reference range values are:

Men3,4 - 7,0 mg/dL0,75 g/day
Women2,4 - 6,0 mg/dL0,24 g/day

The uric acid test is usually ordered by the doctor when the patient has joint pain or when there are suspicions of more serious diseases, such as kidney damage or leukemia.

Commonly the patient's values are above the reference value but there is also people who have a low uric acid level that is related to congenital diseases, such as Wilson's disease, for example.

Symptoms of high levels of uric acid

The main symptoms of high levels of uric acid that affects mainly men, are:

  • Pain and joint swelling, specially in your toe, ankle, knee or fingers;
  • Difficulty moving the affected joint;
  • Redness in the joint, that may become hotter than usual;
  • Deformation of the joint due to excessive buildup of crystals.

It is also common the appearance of kidney stones, that cause intense pain in the bottom of the back and difficulty urinating, for example. 

What causes high uric acid levels

Excessive consumption of high-protein foods such as red meats, seafood and fish increases the chances of high uric acid, as well as over consumption of alcoholic beverages, both by increasing urate production and reducing elimination. Also the consumption of foods high in saturated fat increase the risk of insulin resistance and obesity, which decrease the elimination of urate by the kidneys.

How to treat high levels of uric acid

Treatment for high uric acid should be directed by a rheumatologist, but usually includes the use of uric acid lowering medications such as Allopurinol, Probenecid, or Sulfinpyrazone, and the use of anti-inflammatory medication such as Indomethacin or Ibuprofen to relieve joint pains.

During treatment, it is also very important to follow a diet for uric acid, avoiding the consumption of foods rich in purine, such as red meats, fish and seafood, as well as giving preference to natural foods rather than industrialized foods.

What not to eat

Ideally the best type of food for people with excess uric acid is organic foods because they contain little amount of industrialized products.

However, within organic foods one should also avoid those that are rich in purines, such as:

  • Red meat in excess;
  • Seafood, mussels, mackerel, sardines, herring and other fish;
  • Very ripe or very sweet fruit, like mango, fig, persimmon or pineapple;
  • Goose meat or chicken in excess;
  • Alcoholic beverages in excess, especially beer.

Additionally, more refined carbohydrates such as bread, cakes or biscuits should also be avoided. See a complete list of what you should avoid to alleviate the symptoms

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