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Hyperuricemia (High Uric Acid Levels): Signs, Causes, Risk & Treatment

HealthcareOnTime Team 2023-12-30 2023-12-31 3 Min Read
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  • Hyperuricemia (High Uric Acid Levels)

    Hyperuricemia is the medical name for high uric acid levels in the human body. Uric acid is built when the body breaks down purines, a chemical found in food and drinks. Typically, a large amount of the uric acid thus produced dissolves in the blood, passing through the kidneys, from where it is flushed out in the urine. 

    However, hyperuricemia occurs when most of the uric acid stays in the body, causing it to clump together to form sharp crystals. These crystals then get deposited in the joints, causing gout, a painful arthritic condition. They may also get deposited in the kidneys, which leads to the formation of kidney stones. 

    Hyperuricemia condition is quite common 1 that affects patients of all ages and genders. That said, it is also easily treatable. 

    Did you know: 

    The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2007-2016 found a prevalence of hyperuricemia of 20.2% in the United States, with increasing rates in both men (19.7% to 25.0%) and women (20.5% to 24.1%) 

    Hyperuricemia is prevalent in healthy adults, affecting 6-8% of the population. Its occurrence rises significantly, impacting 1 in 3 adults with uncontrolled hypertension and various other conditions.

    Most Common Hyperuricemia  (High Uric Acid) Symptoms

    Hyperuricemia does not have any symptoms on its own. A lot of people don’t realize that their uric acid levels are rising until they’re diagnosed with kidney stones or gout. Over a period of time, uric acid builds up in your body and can lead to pain and other high uric acid symptoms. This is usually when people Book Uric Acid Test or consult a doctor. 

    The conditions that are caused due to rising uric acid levels — Gout and Kidney Stones — can present a number of hyperuricemia symptoms. 

    Some of the common symptoms of gout2 include:

    • Redness or discolouration of the skin
    • Intense pain
    • Stiffness or swelling
    • Extreme tenderness or feeling like your joints are on fire. 

    Similarly, if your high uric acid levels have caused kidney stones, you’re likely to experience symptoms, such as:

    • Pain in the side of the body or lower back
    • Vomiting or nausea
    • Fever and chills
    • Pain or blood while urinating
    • Having difficulty urinating or conversely urinating too often
    • Having cloudy or bad-smelling pee

    If you don’t treat high uric acid level symptoms, they can eventually permanently damage your bones, ligaments, tendons, and joints. Additionally, there’s also a link between high uric acid levels in the body and other health conditions, like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, diabetes, and so on. 

    Given this, it’s vital to treat hyperuricemia as soon as one starts noticing any of the symptoms mentioned above. 

    Most Common Hyperuricemia  (High Uric Acid) Causes

    In simple terms, hyperuricemia is a condition caused as a result of extra uric acid in the blood. The body creates uric acid after it breaks down purines. Purines are essentially naturally occurring food constituents and are not harmful to the body in small quantities. However, regularly eating foods that have a higher amount of purine, can gradually bring your uric acid levels up in the body. Some of the foods that are high in purines include:

    • Liver and other organ meats
    • Seafood 3, especially shrimp, lobster, sardines, and salmon
    • Red meat 4
    • Food and drinks that have a high fructose corn syrup content
    • Alcohol (this includes beer and nonalcoholic beer)

    Some other causes of high uric acid levels in the body are medicines like diuretics and immunosuppressants. 

    Hyperuricemia, or high uric acid levels, can occur due to various medical conditions that affect uric acid metabolism, excretion, or production. Here's a list of medical conditions commonly associated with hyperuricemia:

    • Gout
    • Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
    • Metabolic Syndrome
    • Hypertension
    • Diabetes Mellitus
    • Obesity
    • Cardiovascular Diseases
    • Hypothyroidism
    • Psoriasis
    • Leukemia and Lymphoma
    • Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome
    • Tumor Lysis Syndrome (TLS)
    • Alcohol Use Disorder
    • Lead Poisoning

    Identifying the reasons for increasing uric acid levels is paramount for implementing targeted interventions to manage this condition. By addressing dietary habits, lifestyle choices, underlying medical conditions, medication influences, and genetic predispositions, individuals can effectively mitigate the risk of hyperuricemia-related complications.

    Most Common Risk Factors of Hyperuricemia

    Hyperuricemia is known to affect pretty much anyone. That said, some groups of people are more likely to develop it. The groups most at risk for developing hyperuricemia are as follows:

    • Males 5 (high uric acid symptoms in females are not as common as in males)
    • People who are obese
    • Those who drink alcohol regularly 
    • Those who eat foods with a high purine content regularly
    • People diagnosed with hypothyroidism

    Effects of High Uric Acid Levels On Body

    Numerous issues might arise from abnormally elevated levels of uric acid in the body. Effective health management requires an understanding of the repercussions of elevated uric acid levels.

    • Joint Problems and Gout: Gout, a Type of arthritis marked by abrupt and excruciating joint pain that usually affects the big toe, is more likely to develop in people with elevated uric acid levels. The accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints can cause severe discomfort, edema, and inflammation. If chronic gout is not treated, it can lead to joint abnormalities and damage.
    • Kidney Stones: Kidney stones can develop as a result of elevated uric acid levels. Crystals of uric acid have the potential to accumulate in the kidneys and form stones that block the urinary path. Urinary difficulties, severe pain, and complications like kidney damage and urinary tract infections can all be brought on by this obstruction.
    • Risks to Cardiovascular Health: There may be a connection between high blood levels of uric acid and a higher chance of cardiovascular conditions like hypertension, coronary artery disease, and stroke, according to recent studies. Elevated levels of uric acid may exacerbate oxidative stress, inflammation, and endothelial dysfunction—all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.
    • Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome: Hyperuricemia has been linked to metabolic syndrome, a group of disorders that includes high blood pressure, obesity, insulin resistance, and abnormal cholesterol levels. Increased uric acid levels have been linked to type 2 diabetes and may worsen insulin resistance.
    • Tissue Damage and Tophi Formation:Uric acid crystals can build up in soft tissues in advanced gout cases, creating nodules known as tophi. These tophi can impair movement and functionality by causing discomfort, edema, and tissue injury.
    • Effect on Mental Health: Research has indicated a possible link between elevated levels of uric acid and mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Mood and mental health may be impacted by chronic inflammation and oxidative stress brought on by hyperuricemia, though the exact processes underlying this link are yet unclear.

    How Is Hyperuricemia Diagnosed And Treated?

    Now that you know the causes of uric acid buildup and the symptoms of uric acid in the body, let’s take a look at how hyperuricemia is diagnosed and treated.

    How is Hyperuricemia Diagnosed?

    Typically, if you start experiencing symptoms related to one of the conditions that hyperuricemia results in, you would visit a doctor for a consultation. You can expect your doctor to do a Uric Acid Test to determine if the uric acid level is high. Alternatively, if you have kidney stones and either pass one or get one surgically removed, the doctor may test the stone to determine if a high uric acid level caused the condition.

    Similarly, if your hyperuricemia causes what your doctor suspects is gout, they will take a sample of the fluid from your joints during a flare-up of your gout symptoms. They will then look for uric acid crystals in the fluid. Your doctor might also order imaging tests specifically on your affected joints. Some of the common imaging tests that you may have to go through if you show signs of high uric acid are as follows:

    • Ultrasound: The ultrasound comes under the category of non-invasive imaging tests. In this test, high-frequency sound waves help create real-time videos or pictures of the tissues or internal organs. Although people usually associate ultrasound tests with pregnancy, the fact is that doctors use them to diagnose several healthcare conditions, including hyperuricemia. 
    • CT scan: A CT (computed tomography) scan is also another commonly used imaging test, which shows the internal structures. A notable aspect of CT scans is that it takes multiple of the body to show more details of the body structures. These scans are used to take pictures of your bones, muscles, blood vessels, etc., and are often conducted when one is experiencing high uric acid symptoms. 
    • X-rays: An X-ray creates pictures of the soft tissues and bones in your body, which helps your doctor analyse your condition and plan your treatment accordingly. So, for instance, if you are experiencing swelling and joint pain as an effect of high uric acid levels in the body, your doctor may request that you get an X-ray done to help them diagnose you accurately. 

    What is The Treatment For Elevated Uric Acid Levels?

    If your tests indicate that you have high uric acid levels in the body but aren’t experiencing any symptoms, this usually does not warrant any specific treatment. Instead, your doctor may ask you to continue tracking your uric acid levels in the body. They may also prescribe certain lifestyle modifications to bring down high uric acid levels.

    However, if you have either gout or kidney stones as a result of high uric acid levels in the body, here’s how they are treated:

    • Gout Treatment: If your gout results in high uric acid levels in the body, studies have reported that they can be effectively treated by way of over-the-counter NSAIDs 6. Further, prescription medication is often used to actively bring down uric acid levels. 
    • Kidney Stone Treatment: Kidney stones typically pass out on their own through your urine. So, in this case, your doctor may ask you to drink more water 7 to help the kidney stone pass soon. If the kidney stone is too large, your doctor will have it surgically removed. 

    What Foods Should Be Eaten And Avoided to Manage Hyperuricemia?

    Following a healthy diet and a rigid exercise plan can help lower uric acid levels and reduce the effect of uric acid in the body. Even if you may be experiencing gout and other related conditions without high uric acid levels, you can better manage the condition and the symptoms by drinking more water, changing up your diet, and being physically active. 

    That said, here’s a list of foods you can eat and ones that should be bypassed if you have hyperuricemia:

    Foods to be eaten

    Foods to be avoided

    Beans and lentils

    Red meat

    Low-fat dairy products

    Organ meat

    Brown rice

    Alcohol

    Oats, barley, brown rice, and quinoa

    Drinks that have too much high fructose corn syrup

    Fruits that are rich in vitamin C 8

    Seafood, especially shellfish like shrimp and lobster

    Vegetables

    Foods with a high glycemic index, like white bread, pasta, and white rice

    Read More: Top 11 Dry Fruits to Lower Uric Acid Levels Naturally

    What Medications Are Prescribed For The Treatment of High Uric Acid Levels?

    Medications for hyperuricemia treatment depend upon how high your uric acid levels are and what are the reasons for the increasing uric acid levels. Also, if you have any specific ailments that have been brought on by high uric acid levels in the body, your doctor may prescribe you medications to treat those specific conditions.

    For cases of gout, a combination of NSAIDs and medicines to lower uric acid levels are prescribed. Colchicine 9 (medication that is used for the prevention of gout attacks) may be prescribed. Your doctor may also prescribe you corticosteroids for their anti-inflammatory properties.

    For cases of kidney stones, drinking more fluid is vital. Medications that help kidney stones to pass (by relaxing the muscles of the ureter, the duct through which urine passes from your kidneys to your bladder) are advised.

    What Are The Best Ways to Prevent Hyperuricemia?

    The best way to reduce uric acid levels in check and prevent having to go through high uric acid treatment is by following an exercise plan and diet that is good for your body. Make sure to limit how much and how often you drink or eat foods and beverages that are rich in purine to keep your uric acid levels low. 

    These uric acid remedies are all the more important if you are at risk for developing hyperuricemia. If you’re unsure which foods to include in your diet, make sure to consult your doctor.

    Disclaimer 

    The information listed here is strictly for educational purposes and is not intended to offer personal medical advice. Do consult your physician for any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. It’s not advised to disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information listed here. The Nutrition Source does not recommend or endorse any products.

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