Uric Acid

Gout and uric acid go hand in hand. Gout occurs when uric acid in the blood stream becomes too concentrated. Once the concentration of this acid reaches a certain level it cannot stay dissolved in the blood. When this happens the it crystallizes out of the blood in the form of monosodium urate monohydrate. That’s a bit of a mouthful so let’s stick with “uric acid crystals”.

Read on to learn more, and also about how diet and weight loss may help reduce the likelihood of further attacks. Alternatively, you could watch the video below.

So what is uric acid? Uric acid crystals are tiny needle-shaped crystals, between 5 and 25 microns in length. A micron is one millionth of a millimetre. When they crystallise out of the blood they deposit into soft tissues, usually around the joints. These crystals are seen as foreign bodies in your system, and as a result your system tries to get rid of them.

It does this by triggering an inflammatory response, much as it would if you had contracted a bacterial infection. The inflammatory response is swift and severe, as any sufferer can attest.

The inflammatory cells try to digest the crystals by using enzymes. These inflammatory cells are about 12-15 microns in length so are often smaller than the crystals they are trying to destroy. Sometimes the inflammatory cells themselves may actually break down while trying to destroy the crystals. When this happens the enzymes can be released from the cell which will usually trigger even more of an inflammatory response.

The vast majority of people who have an acute attack will have had high concentrations of uric acid for several years before their first attack. And because the first attack normally comes and goes quite quickly, many people do not realise that they have an underlying medical condition. If someone has had an attack and the acid levels remain high, then that person is very likely to have another attack at some point in time.

Even if you have already had gout and uric acid levels remain high, you may not be experiencing symptoms. But you can be sure that the crystals are still forming and still depositing into your soft tissues. And it will only be a matter of time before you have another attack. Often a second attack will happen in a completely different joint.

So if you have gout and your acid levels are high, what can you do about it? While there may be some specific medical issues causing high acid levels (which might be genetic or related to other disorders such as kidney disorders) often the cause may be as simple as diet. But don’t forget that you should be seeing your doctor to make sure that it is not something more serious. A doctor may also consider prescribing medication which can help keep your uric acid levels down.

Obesity is one of the leading causes of gout.
by Joe_13 under CC BY-ND
Obesity is one of the leading causes of gout.

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Being overweight is strongly associated with this condition. Many studies have shown that just by losing weight a sufferer can reduce the likelihood of future attacks. But you have to be careful that you don’t have rapid weight loss, as this may actually cause you more problems and may trigger an attack.

Uric acid is a by-product of the digestion of foods high in purines. They are a certain type of molecule similar to some of the most essential chemicals in the body. Essentially they form a part of your DNA, and are also vital for providing energy for bodily functions.

Some foods are a lot higher in purines than others, and eating too many of these high-purine foods can lead to increased uric acid production. This occurs when there is too much of it in the system, and not all of it can be converted to ATP which is the main energy source for the body.

It so happens that many of the low purine foods are actually quite healthy for you (eg fruit and many vegetables) and many of the purine-rich foods might be regarded as “unhealthy”. So as a consequence of switching to a low purine diet, you may find that you naturally lose weight as well, hence reducing one of the other high risk factors.

Gout and uric acid are very closely related. If you have suffered from this condition then you can be certain that you have high acid levels. However it is important to note that other conditions may lead to gout-like symptoms, and it is always important to talk to a medical professional about your health issues.

Read more about gout diet

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