High uric acid level: What does it mean?

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High uric acid level: What does it mean?

Question

My doctor says I have high uric acid levels in my blood. What does that mean?

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Answer

Uric acid is a waste product formed from the breakdown (metabolism) of substances in food called purines. Most of the uric acid made by your body dissolves in your blood and passes through your kidneys into your urine. However, sometimes your body either produces too much or excretes too little uric acid.

Causes of high uric acid levels in your blood (hyperuricemia) include:

  • Obesity
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Diets high in purines
  • Certain medications, including low-dose aspirin, diuretics and some high blood pressure drugs
  • Certain diseases that have a high cell turnover rate, such as leukemia, lymphoma or psoriasis

Initially, hyperuricemia may cause no symptoms. But if untreated, it can lead to:

  • Gout
  • Uric acid stones in the urinary tract
  • Deposits of uric acid in the kidneys (uric acid nephropathy)
  • Deposits of uric acid in the soft tissue (tophi)

Treatment is directed at reducing uric acid levels and may include lifestyle changes such as:

  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Losing weight if you're overweight
  • Avoiding foods high in purines
  • Discontinuing use of medications that may be causing elevated uric acid levels

In addition, your doctor may recommend further testing to rule out conditions that may contribute to elevated uric acid levels — especially if levels don't return to normal after lifestyle changes. Additional treatment may include medications to lower uric acid levels. It is important to note that high uric acid levels are also associated with an increased risk of heart disease. So it is important to reduce high uric acid levels.

Last Updated: 09/15/2006
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