Elevated levels of uric acid, called hyperuricemia, occur when the body either produces too much uric acid or is unable to remove sufficient quantities of the substance through normal means. Normal uric acid levels range between 3 and 7 mg/dl (milligrams per decilitre), according to MedlinePlus. High uric acid itself rarely produces any symptoms, but the condition may lead to more serious disorders, such as gout, kidney stones and even kidney failure.
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Uric Acid Crystals
Abnormally high levels of uric acid can lead to some worrisome health problems when uric acid crystals lodge in joints and elsewhere in the body.
The most widely reported manifestation of high uric acid levels is gout, which develops when uric acid crystals accumulate in a joint, causing severe pain. Gout, also known as acute gouty arthritis, develops most often in the joints of the toes, afflicting the big toe more often than the others. However, it can appear in any of the joints of the hands, wrists, knees, ankles and feet, according to MayoClinic.com. An acute attack of gout can be treated with prescription anti-inflammatory medications, such as indomethacin; OTC painkillers, including naproxen and ibuprofen; colchicine; and steroids, such as prednisone. Preventive medications include allopurinol, which helps to reduce uric acid levels.
Kidney stones form when excess quantities of chemicals are present in the urine, making it difficult for them to be completely dissolved in the urine. Not all kidney stones are caused by excess uric acid, but it is responsible for a large number of them. An abnormally high level of uric acid in the urine is known as hyperuricosuria. As in the joints, excess uric acid can clump together in crystals, creating the basis for the formation of kidney stones, which can cause excruciating pain when they pass from the kidney into the ureter and become stuck. The ureter is the duct that connects the kidney to the bladder.
Kidney failure, although far less common than kidney stones, can also be caused by high levels of uric acid. A study, the results of which were published in a 2007 issue of the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, established a link between hyperuricemia and acute renal failure. In their conclusion, the study's authors observe that although "uric acid . . . has some antioxidant effects that may be beneficial, we believe that the net effect of hyperuricemia, particularly if it is marked or persistent, will be to affect renal outcomes adversely."
Reducing Uric Acid Levels
High uric acid levels can be reduced by minimising your consumption of high-purine foods. Such foods include anchovies, gravy, herring, mackerel, sardines, scallops, sweetbreads (organ meats) and wild game, such as venison. It is also wise to limit your consumption of asparagus, cauliflower, dried peas/beans, mushrooms, oatmeal, spinach and wheat bran. Drink plenty of water, which will help to flush excess uric acid from the body. For those whose bodies produce abnormally high levels of uric acid, doctors usually prescribe allopurinol or a similar medication.
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