Track your Biomarker for Gout, Even if you Don’t Have Gout!
Did you know that high levels of uric acid in your blood can cause health problems from gout to renal stones or even kidney failure? Approximately 20 to 25% of healthy population have higher than normal uric acid levels (hyperuricemia), and many will go on to develop gout.
What does the uric acid level in the blood mean?
Uric acid is a by product of purine metabolism. Purine is a nitrogen compound that is produced in our body as well as absorbed from our dietary intake of purine rich foods. Purine is needed in the making of DNA and coenzymes.
A uric acid test measures the level of this biomarker in our blood or our urine.
A high level of uric acid in your blood usually occurs when your kidneys do not filter the substance efficiently. Less commonly (about 10% of cases) it is due to an increased production or absorption of uric acid but normal rate of elimination by kidneys.
There are certain individuals who are more likely to have hyperuricemia:
- Some ethnic backgrounds
- Being overweight
- On certain medications such as loop diuretics
- On high purine diet
- Diabetics, hypertensives, those with chronic renal disease
Gout is a common type of arthritis with severe, sudden attacks of pain, redness, swelling, and tenderness usually in the big toe, but it can occur in other joints too. The condition is closely related to hyperuricemia, because urate crystals build up in the affected joints leading to inflammation.
Treatment involves the use of medications to alleviate this inflammation, and to regulate the level of uric acid in the body. Besides medical treatment, there are many things you can do to reduce your symptoms and prevent them from occurring in future. Try to exercise regularly and keep your weight in a healthy range. Weight management is essential for prevention of gout attacks. A diet with caloric restriction, limited refined carbohydrates and saturated fats but allowed increased proportion of protein, can lead to substantial weight loss and a significant reduction in serum uric acid.
Things you eat also play a role in prevention and control of gout. Limit consumption of foods abundant in purines such as yeast and yeast extracts (including beer), liver and meat extracts, spinach, beans, lentils, oatmeal, asparagus, mushrooms. Additionally, consider limiting or avoiding intake of alcohol and sweetened beverages because they negatively affect uric acid and your gout.
When should we monitor them?
Hyperuricemia or even gout can often be either asymptomatic (no symptoms to suggest you have the disease) or if present the symptoms are so mild that people tend not to seek medical help and just put up with it. And the only way to know you have the disease is by a blood test. We should all be screened for these diseases with regular blood tests and treat any abnormalities to prevent any long term problems associated with hyperuricemia and gout, such as kidney stones, repeated gout attacks, renal failure, and urate deposits elsewhere in our soft tissues.
For those already suffering form gout attacks or other forms of hyperuricemia, monitoring your levels of uric acid is indispensable to assess response to medical and other kinds of therapy, and with other tests (renal function testing, CBC, urinalysis for uric acid) assess the possible renal damages.
How do we manage high uric acid levels?
Now that you know you have hyperuricemia, what next? If you are asymptomatic and no family history of any gout complications of kidney disease or stones, then you should be on a lifestyle and dietary modification to reduce your weight and also avoid purine rich foods. Medical treatment is not necessary. Do monitor your levels of uric acid and renal function test, and see the doctor if there is any worsening of hyperuricemia or abnormal renal function in urea or creatinine levels.
However if you do suffer from any of the symptoms of hyperuricemia or gout (fatigue, fevers, joint pains with redness, flank pains on urination, blood in the urine), or you may have no symptoms but close family member have kidney stones or renal disease, see your doctor.
Remember, it is a combination of medical treatment and strict dietary regime to stop gout attacks from recurring!
If you’re interested in learning more about the importance of tracking your uric acid levels, read on more about it in our biomarker post here!