A blood test is often ordered to measure the amount of uric acid in your blood. Uric acid is produced during natural breakdown of cells. You also get it from the foods you eat. Kidneys filter out most of the acid. It is then flushed out from the body through urine. Some amount of the acid is also present in stool. High blood uric acid levels indicate that kidneys are not capable of removing the acid from blood or the quantity of the acid produced by the body is very high.
How is Uric Acid Test Used
A simple blood test helps measure and monitor blood uric acid levels. It helps diagnose gout. With the help of the test, it is possible to check whether high uric acid is the cause of kidney stones. Repeating the test helps you know whether the prescribed medicines are working or not. Many times, doctors need to monitor the blood uric acid levels of patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy as these treatments kill cancer cells but may lead to leakage of uric acid in the blood.
Normal and Abnormal Uric Acid Levels
3.5 to 7.2 mg/dL is considered as normal blood uric acid level, so anything above this is considered unsafe. The normal value may vary from person to person as it depends upon the age, gender, overall health and lifestyle of the person. Patients diagnosed with gout should try to maintain the uric acid level around 6 mg/dL (0.35 mmol/L). The normal value may vary slightly among different laboratories. Low purine diet, some diseases and disorders like Wilson's disease (liver disease), Fanconi syndrome (problem in diuretic hormone secretion), certain medicines like estrogen, glucose, corticosteroids, warfarin, allopurinol, drugs prescribed to lower the symptoms of gout, and pregnancy may lower the blood uric acid levels. Low levels of uric acid are rarely noticed and usually, they are not serious.
Uric Acid Test Kit
Easy to use uric acid meters are available in markets. With these test kits, you can monitor your uric acid levels, regularly. You can perform the test at home to get some extra readings between the 'official' tests (tests with your doctor). Noticing slight changes in the levels might help you maintain the levels more accurately. If required, you can consult with your doctor about the efficiency of the medicine and change in diet. The test requires no special preparation but remember, some medicines and foods can affect the results of the test. So, you should inform your doctor about your routine medicines. Fasting for 4 hours before the test (no food, no drink, unless told otherwise) is recommended as it helps get correct results.
The package of uric acid monitor consists of test strips and a mini lancing device to take a sample drop of blood. You are expected to use a new test strip every time you check uric acid level. There is a space for the strip to slide into, in the testing monitor. When the strip is placed there, the monitor displays the amount of uric acid in blood. You can change the unit as you wish, traditional mg/dL units or the SI µmol/L units. The device is very easy to use, but you need a little bit of practice. The test strips require a single drop of blood large enough to fill the test area and you need practice to get that drop of blood. When you order your test kit, it is advisable to order an additional pack of test strips with the kit.
Uric Acid and Gout
As the levels of uric acid in blood increase, the acid crystallizes. This leads to a type of arthritis called gout. Solid crystals of the acid are deposited within joints. If gout is left untreated, the crystals in the joints and nearby tissues may form hard lumpy deposits called tophi. High levels of the acid are many times responsible for kidney stones or kidney failure.
A person with gout should avoid alcohol, sugary foods (high fructose corn syrup) and foods rich in protein. Excessive consumption of meat and fish should be avoided. Avoiding purine rich foods (organ meats, bacon, goose, veal, pulses, dried beans and peas, beer, anchovies, herring, haddock, mackerel, asparagus and mushrooms) helps lower the chances of gout attacks. Diet and regular exercise (losing weight reduces the risk of gout attacks) help maintain normal uric acid levels. A low fat diet, limited consumption of lean meat, poultry and fish, use of fat-free dairy products and increased intake of high fiber foods (fruits and vegetables), water and healthy liquids lower the chances of joint pain.
Joint pain is the main symptom of high levels of uric acid in blood, but fixing the pain does not fix your gout. It is essential to reduce the acid in blood, otherwise gout pain will just keep coming back. Uric acid levels are not stable throughout the day and they may be different everyday. You can see these fluctuations even in 'official tests' organized by your doctor. The best way to maintain normal uric acid levels is to follow a proper diet.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.