The unwanted crystals – Lifestyle News

High uric acid levels can cause joint and several other problems. Dr Jayant Kumar Hota, senior consultant, nephrology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, says high uric acid levels, also known as hyperuricemia, can be caused by various factors. The primary cause is the overproduction or under-excretion of uric acid by the body. Uric acid is a waste product formed during the breakdown of purines, which are found in many foods, especially those high in protein such as red meat, seafood and certain vegetables. When the body produces too much uric acid or is unable to effectively eliminate it through the kidneys, it can build up in the blood and form crystals in joints and other tissues.

Other factors that can contribute to high uric acid levels include genetics, obesity, certain medical conditions like kidney disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes, as well as certain medications like diuretics and some cancer treatments.

How much of it can be blamed on diet?

Diet plays a significant role in the development of high uric acid levels, and its contribution cannot be overlooked. Excessive consumption of purine-rich foods, such as red meat, organ meats, seafood and certain vegetables like spinach and asparagus, can lead to an overproduction of uric acid in the body. Additionally, a diet high in fructose, particularly from sweetened beverages and processed foods, has been linked to increased uric acid levels. Fructose metabolism in the liver generates purines, which are then broken down into uric acid. Furthermore, alcohol consumption, especially in excess, can impair the kidney’s ability to excrete uric acid, leading to its accumulation in the body. Maintaining a balanced diet that limits the intake of purine-rich foods, fructose, and alcohol can significantly reduce the risk of developing hyperuricemia and its associated joint problems.

Is the condition medically treatable?

Yes, high uric acid levels, or hyperuricemia, is a medically treatable condition. The primary treatment approach involves making lifestyle modifications, such as adopting a low-purine diet, maintaining a healthy weight, staying hydrated, and limiting alcohol consumption. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help lower uric acid levels. Common medications used to treat hyperuricemia include xanthine oxidase inhibitors, which reduce the production of uric acid, and uricosuric agents, which increase the excretion of uric acid through the kidneys. In severe cases or when complications arise, such as the formation of uric acid crystals in the joints (gout), more aggressive treatment options like corticosteroids or biologic drugs may be recommended to manage inflammation and pain.

Apart from joints, how else does uric acid harm the body?

High uric acid levels can have detrimental effects on various parts of the body beyond the joints. One of the most significant risks is the formation of kidney stones, which can cause severe pain, obstruction, and potential kidney damage. Uric acid stones are a common type of kidney stone, and individuals with hyperuricemia are at an increased risk of developing them.

Additionally, elevated uric acid levels have been associated with an increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease, as the crystals can accumulate in the kidneys and impair their function over time. Furthermore, high uric acid levels have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, and heart failure.

The exact mechanisms are not fully understood, but it is believed that uric acid can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque in the arteries) and endothelial dysfunction (impaired function of the blood vessel lining). Additionally, there is evidence suggesting that hyperuricemia may play a role in the development of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that includes obesity, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance, which can further increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.

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