Your body is constantly working to keep you alive and healthy; blood is constantly going through your vessels, your brain never takes a break, and your digestive system metabolizes food even while you’re asleep. Another important bodily function is excretion. That is the removal of waste products from your body.
Uric acid is a heterocyclic compound that forms as a result of purine breakdown. Purine, in turn, is a nitrogen-containing compound found endogenously (inside the body) in DNA or exogenously (outside the body) in several foodstuffs such as shellfish, green vegetables, red meats, and alcohol.
Studies have shown that around 21.4% of the population living in the United States have a condition known as hyperuricemia - an excessive buildup of uric acid in the body. 3.9% of these people have a condition known as gout that results due to increased uric acid.
Normal Uric Acid Levels
Purine is a nitrogen-containing component of DNA and uric acid is a breakdown product of purine. Uric acid is usually termed as a nitrogen-containing compound, but it is actually heterocyclic - it contains nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen.
DNA breakdown products are transferred to the digestive system where the body decides what’s there to keep and what should it excrete out. Uric acid is produced in the liver or in the intestinal mucosa. Normal levels of uric acid vary in females from 2.4-6 mg/dL and from 3.4-7 mg/dL in males.
Hyperuricemia - Increased Uric Acid Levels
If uric acid levels in your blood increase by 7 mg/dL, your doctor will diagnose you with hyperuricemia. A significant portion of people living in the United States lives with this condition, although several people might not be inherently aware of it.
Hyperuricemia manifests itself commonly as either gout or kidney stones. Around 3.9% of people living in the United States suffer from gout, and less than 2% of people suffer from kidney stones as a result of primary hyperuricemia but more than 30% suffer from it due to secondary hyperuricemia.
If uric acid levels in the body are increased due to a rise in purine levels, the condition is known as primary hyperuricemia. In this case, there is no comorbid condition or illness that contributes to increased uric acid levels. Primary Hyperuricemia can, thus, occur due to the following two causes:
- Increased purine levels (usually due to excessive intake from exogenous sources)
- Kidney failure (kidneys can not excrete the uric acid and it, therefore, builds up in your blood)
If uric acid levels in the body are increased due to a comorbid disease or an illness, the condition is known as secondary hyperuricemia. The most common causes of secondary hyperuricemia are:
- Cancer or chemotherapy agents
- Medications (Aspirin, Niacin, Levodopa)
- Diabetes Type II
- Metabolic conditions
- Lifestyle modifications (obesity)
Gout is the most commonly known manifestation of increased uric acid levels in the blood. The condition is characterized as a form of arthritis of the joints (typically the knees or the small joints of the hands and feet).
When uric acid levels in the body increase due to either primary or secondary causes, the excess uric acid begin to crystallize and settle in the joints. This causes a painful inflammation of the joints, manifested as:
- Hot to touch
- Loss of function
Another common complication seen in gout is known as podagra - swelling or inflammation of the big toe. Besides a uric acid test, podagra is usually a diagnostic finding in cases of gout.
Uric Acid Test
Intense joint pain? Get a Uric Acid Test! A uric acid test is not a routine test. Your doctor may order one following a routine blood analysis or a routine urinalysis. Hyperuricemia is indicated if uric acid levels in the body exceed 7 mg/dL.
The test is usually performed similarly to a blood test or a sample can be taken from an inflamed joint.
When to Consult a Physician
Consult your physician if you feel immense pain in your joints, or have any symptoms associated with kidney stones (nausea, lower back pain, etc).
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