All you need to know about hyperuricemia, its causes and symptoms
Excess of anything is considered to be harmful. It is a well-known proverb. It applies to your foods too. A person taking excessive high-energy foods will become obese. Similarly, when you are taking excessive proteins, you become prone to a condition called hyperuricemia. Have you ever visited an old bodybuilder? He will be found complaining of swollen and painful joints, typical symptoms of the higher uric acid level in the body. It occurs when uric acid crystals accumulate in the joints. They hinder the movements of the joints and movements become painful. How is this uric acid is produced in your body? What causes it to accumulate in your joints? Let's find out how this happens.
How and why uric acid is formed in your body?
Uric acid is produced by the metabolism of purine-rich foods. Purines are naturally present in proteins. Whenever proteins are metabolised in your body, they release purines. The metabolism of these purines converts them into uric acid. So, all protein-rich diets are not rich in purines. The following foodstuffs are classified as purine-rich foods.,
- Red meat
- Various kinds of seafood e.g., haddock, trout, codfish, mussels, sardines, tuna, scallops etc...
- The meat of specific organs e.g., kidneys, livers (sweetbreads).
- Protein-rich vegetables e.g., cauliflower, asparagus, green peas, mushrooms, spinach etc...
- Some drinks e.g., liquor and beer also convert to uric acid
- Some medications
Don’t forget that food can't be blamed for all diseases. Uric acid is also produced by normal wear and tear of your body muscles. So, the level is normally higher in bodybuilders. Some food toxins can also increase uric acid production. Similarly, when your thyroid functions are not functioning normally (hypothyroidism), uric acid levels can rise. Similarly, various other diseases are also responsible for hyperuricemia.
Still, it would be prudent to avoid taking excess of these purine-rich foodstuffs.
How much uric acid is naturally formed in the body?
You might have gone through urinalysis i.e., chemical analysis of urine. The report must have a section for uric acid too. So, uric acid is not unnatural. It is naturally produced through the metabolism of foodstuffs. After being produced, it travels to your kidneys which filter it out of the body in urine. Therefore, some amount of uric acid must be present in your blood as well as urine.
You should know normal levels of uric acid in the blood as well as urine. Normally, the uric acid in your blood should be in the range of 3.5-7.2 milligrams/ deciliter (mg/dL). As the body of a female is less muscular, the uric acid level in female blood is slightly less at 2.4-6 mg/dL. As an athletic woman, your blood may have higher uric acids.
The uric acid is eliminated through the urine. Normally, your urine removes 250-750 milligrams of uric acid from your body every day.
What causes the symptoms of high uric acid to develop?
The above explanation must have enabled you to understand the causes. Anything interfering the normal production and elimination of uric acid will result in an accumulation of uric acid in the body. So, besides taking purine-rich foods, a person having kidney problems, liver diseases and vascular issues will also have an elevated level of uric acids in the blood.
The liver is involved in the metabolism of purines into uric acid, so any liver disease e.g., hepatitis will result in increased uric acid levels in the blood.
What are the symptoms of high uric acid?
Uric acid is not a liquid, it has a lower solubility in body fluids. So, it crystallises out and precipitates in the form of sharp crystals. The most common sites of settlement for these sharp crystals are joints (gout) and kidneys. Let’s imagine you have very small and sharp needles in your joints that inflict heavy pain on you when you try to move the joints. This is exactly the case with high uric acid levels in the body.
The following symptoms are usually noted;
- Most people with high uric acid levels don’t develop the symptoms. Their bodies adapt to the situation by increasing uric acid elimination through the kidneys. However, a higher work burden on the kidneys can ultimately lead to kidney failures.
- In a minority of people, the uric acid crystals settle in the joints to produce a painful condition of the joints called gout. The most commonly known site of gout development is the toe joint (big toe). The joints become swollen, painful and almost immobile.
- As the kidneys have to do the job of removing these crystals from the body, these crystals may accumulate in the kidneys in the form of uric acid stones. These stones can impair kidney functions causing further complications. You may notice abdominal pain and nausea. These stones are difficult to remove and may require surgery.
- Higher uric acid levels are closely linked to other body parameters. It has been proven that hyperuricemia predisposes a person to high blood pressure, fatty liver and type 2 diabetes etc...
What to do if you are feeling any symptoms of high uric acid?
An obvious choice will be visiting a doctor. But don’t rush. Symptoms usually appear when the body adaptations have failed to manage higher uric acid levels. So, visit your family physician when you note any of the above symptoms. I have used the word ‘family physician’ because hyperuricemia has a familial disposition and only a family physician will have the access to your family history.
However, it is on your part to change your lifestyle. The following lifestyle adaptations may be worthy.
- Try to keep your weight in the healthy range (consult the BMI chart). It will help your body to cope with any stress (e.g., taking excess purine-rich diets).
- It is not recommended that you avoid purine-rich diets totally. After all, it will be difficult to live without meats, seafood and pulses. However, it will be prudent to take them healthily. Identify purine-rich foods in your diets and combine them with low purine foodstuff and vitamin supplements (vitamins C and E).
- Avoid alcohol and soft drinks. Try to take freshwater (having optimum solids) as much as possible. The water will help your body to remove the uric acid. Take at least eight glasses each day.
The bottom line takes us to the same conclusion. Eat everything but avoid having an excess of anything.
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