Problem of Hyperuricemia is increasing at an alarming rate. The blame for that, in part (and it is quite a big part, actually), can be laid at the doorstep of our changing lifestyle. Hyperuricemia is a disorder of uric acid.
What is Uric Acid?
Uric Acid is made up of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen. It is usually present in the form of ions and salts as urates and acid urates. Uric acid is present in the blood and in moderate quantities. It is a part of normal working of the body, but when the level of uric acid increases in blood, it gives rise to a condition called Hyperuricemia.
A decrease in the level of uric acid can lead to a condition called Hypouricemia but it is a benign condition and is only significant as a diagnostic tool for various other diseases and disorders.
Purine rich food ingestion causes uric acid formation in body. Purines are basically present in all protein rich foods such as meat and meat products (especially liver, brains and kidney), sea foods, anchovies, beer, gravy, herring, mackerel, mushrooms, lentils, asparagus etc.
Excess uric acid gets excreted out through urine but when its quantity increases in blood, that's when problems arise.
Normal Levels of Uric Acid
The level of uric acid in blood depends upon the amount of purines ingested as food, amount of urate synthesized by the body and how much of this uric acid gets excreted out through urine.
- Normal uric acid range for women is 2.4-6.0 mg/dL.
- Normal range for men is 3.4-6.8 mg/dL.
What are the Effects of High Uric Acid?
An increase in uric acid content results in two stages-
- Asymptomatic Stage- When the amount of uric acid in blood initially increases, typically, it shows no symptoms and that is why an early increase of uric acid levels can largely go unnoticed. This stage of high uric acid disorder is termed asymptomatic as there are usually no visible symptoms and the only way of determining high amount of uric acid is through lab testing.
- Symptomatic Stage- As the high uric acid disorder progresses, it can lead to-
- Gout- Gout is a disease characterized by swelling in a joint usually the big toe. This swelling is caused by the deposition of urate crystals formed by a surplus of uric acid levels in blood. The disease is the most common symptom of high uric acid level and since it causes swelling in the joints and is quite painful, it is also known as Gout Arthritis.
- Uric Acid Nephrolithiasis- The term basically means Kidney Stone, which is again caused by urate crystals formed because of a profusion of high uric acid in blood. These uric acid crystals get accumulated in the kidney and when stuck in the ureter, can be quite painful.
- Hypertension- According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), it is yet unknown, why exactly high uric acid causes increased blood pressure but it is evident that it does so.
- Uric Acid Nephropathy- Acute Uric Acid Nephropathy is a disorder in which there is rapid deterioration of the normal functioning of the kidney, which is caused by the production of a high amount of uric acid by the body.
- Apart from the above mentioned effects of high uric acid, various other kidney diseases such as chronic nephropathy as well as heart diseases are also caused by over-production of uric acid in the human body.
- High level of uric acid is even associated with Diabetes.
Some Pertinent Facts of Uric Acid-
- Gout and high uric acid disorder is usually taken as one and the same but they are not. High uric acid in blood can be indicative of many other diseases.
- Since, in early stages, high uric acid usually goes unnoticed, it is better to get yourself tested to know that if your uric acid levels are normal or not.
- Diabetic, obese or individuals suffering from hypertension or kidney problems have increased chances of having high levels of uric acid in blood.
- Men usually are prone to have higher levels of uric acid than women.
- Likelihood of having excess amount of uric acid in blood, increases with increasing age, which is why high uric acid content is rarely found in children.
- Menopausal women are more vulnerable to the problem of increased levels of uric acid.
- It is quite possible to decrease the amount of uric acid present in the body and in turn, treat the disorders associated with high uric acid in blood, by a combination of medicines and lifestyle changes.
Diagnosis of Uric Acid Levels-
- Simple blood test can help detect the level of serum uric acid.
- X-ray of swollen joints can help detect the presence of uric acid crystals in it.
- A renal sonogram is also performed to evaluate whether the kidneys are properly excreting the uric acid, which can be done by seeing if there are any uric acid crystals present in the kidneys or not.