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Uric Acid Test: An Overview

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Uric acid is a waste product formed when the body breaks down chemicals called purines. Read this article to know more about it.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Published At January 11, 2023
Reviewed AtMay 11, 2023

What Is Uric Acid?

Uric acid is a chemical formed when the body breaks down purines. Purines are substances normally produced in the body and found in some foods and drinks. Foods containing high content of purines include liver, mackerel, dried beans and peas, and beer. Most uric acid dissolves in the blood and goes to the kidneys. From there, it then passes out in the urine. One can get sick if the body produces too much uric acid or does not remove enough of it, resulting in gout (a condition characterized by the formation of crystals in the joint). In addition, high uric acid levels can cause other disorders, including kidney stones and kidney failure.

What Is a Uric Acid Test?

The uric acid test, also called a serum uric acid test, serum urate, or UA helps check the uric acid levels in the blood. A uric acid test is not performed as a routine blood test. But, if there is a health problem that is caused by high uric acid levels, it can be helpful to measure it. High uric acid levels can cause gout, for which one may need to determine how much uric acid is in the blood.

What Is Uric Acid Test Used For?

A uric acid test is usually used to diagnose the following conditions:

  • Gout: This is a type of arthritis where crystals from the uric acid form in the joints and cause intense pain. It usually affects the big toe, but other parts, such as ankles, feet, hands, knees, and wrists, may also be involved. It can also cause swelling, redness, discomfort in those joints, and limited movements.

  • Kidney Stones: These are little, hard deposits of minerals and acid salts formed in the kidneys when there is too much uric acid. They may cause sharp pain in the abdomen, side, or groin, back pain, blood in the urine, frequent urge to urinate, pain when urinating, cloudy or bad-smelling urine, nausea, and vomiting.

  • High Uric Acid Level During Chemotherapy or Radiation Therapy: These cancer treatments kill many cells in the body, increasing the uric acid level. A uric acid test can help check that level does not get too high.

How To Prepare for the Uric Acid Test?

The following things should be kept in mind before undergoing the test:

  • Avoid drinking or eating anything a few hours before the test. Because many medications can interfere with blood test results, the health care provider often asks if a person must stop taking any medicines before having this test.

  • Tell the doctor about medicines, herbs, and supplements, including over-the-counter, prescription, and illegal drugs. Any of these can affect the results.

  • Only stop or change the medicines after asking the health care provider before stopping or changing the medicines.

How Is the Uric Acid Test Performed?

A uric acid test can be performed as a blood test or a urine test.

  1. Blood Test:

  • A healthcare professional draws a blood sample from a vein in the arm using a small needle during a blood test.

  • The blood sample is collected into a clean test tube or vial. This usually takes less than five minutes.

  1. Uric Acid Urine Test:

  • All urine passed in 24 hours is collected for a uric acid urine test called a 24-hour urine sample test. The health care provider or a laboratory professional provides a container to collect the urine and instructions on collecting and storing the samples. This test generally includes the following steps:

    • Void urine in the morning and flush it away. Record the time.

    • For the next 24 hours, collect all the urine passed in the container provided.

    • Store the urine container.

    • Return the sample container to the laboratory professional as instructed.

What Are the Risks of Uric Acid Test?

There is a slight chance of problems, such as:

  • Bleeding or bruising.

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.

  • Infection.

What Do the Test Results Mean?

The uric acid test measures the uric acid in milligrams (mg) and the blood in deciliters (dL).

Normal Results:

Normal values of uric acid range between 3.5 to 7.2 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). These ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to the healthcare provider about the meaning of the specific test results.

High Uric Acid Levels:

Generally, the uric acid level is high when:

  • For women, it is over 6 mg/dL.

  • For men, it is over 7 mg/dL.

If the blood test results show high uric acid levels, it can be a sign of many conditions, including:

  • Kidney disease.

  • Pre-eclampsia is a potentially dangerous condition that can cause high blood pressure in pregnant women.

  • Intake of too many purine-rich foods, such as dried beans or certain fish such as anchovies, mackerel, and sardines.

  • Alcoholism.

  • Side effects from cancer treatment.

  • Leukemia.

  • Multiple myeloma.

If the urine test results have high uric levels, it may indicate the following conditions:

  • Gout.

  • A diet includes many purine-rich foods, including dried beans or certain fish such as anchovies, mackerel, and sardines.

  • Leukemia.

  • Multiple myeloma.

  • Side effects from cancer treatment.

  • Obesity.

Some individuals with high uric acid levels may not have gout or other kidney disorders. Therefore, they may not need treatment if they do not have disease symptoms. But make sure to talk to a health care provider if concerned about the raised uric acid levels or if you are experiencing any new symptoms.

Low Uric Acid Levels:

Low uric acid levels in the blood are uncommon and do not usually cause concern.

  • Low uric acid levels in urine can signify kidney disease, lead poisoning, or heavy alcohol use.

What Other Tests May Be Needed?

The doctor may order other tests simultaneously to track down what is causing the symptoms and help understand the test results and the next steps.

  • Other gout tests include one where they take fluid from the joint with symptoms.

  • Urinalysis - A urine test that checks for more signs of kidney stones, including blood, white blood cells, and crystals in the urine.

Conclusion:

Uric acid is one of the waste products produced when the body breaks down chemicals called purines. A uric acid test helps measure the amount of uric acid in the blood or urine. This test is commonly used to help diagnose gout, find the cause of frequent kidney stones, and monitor the uric acid level of people undergoing certain cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy. The values of uric acid ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Discuss with a healthcare provider the meaning of the specific test result.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

What Is the Best Time to Test Uric Acid?

The best time to test uric acid levels is in the morning before eating or drinking. This is because uric acid levels can vary throughout the day and can be influenced by factors like diet and hydration. Fasting overnight provides a more accurate baseline measurement for healthcare professionals to assess uric acid levels.

2.

What Are the Limitations of Uric Acid Tests?

- Fluctuation: Uric acid levels can fluctuate throughout the day and may not always reflect your long-term health status.


- Dietary Influence: Diet, especially high-purine foods and alcohol consumption, can temporarily elevate uric acid levels, leading to potential misinterpretation.


- Individual Variability: What's considered a normal range for uric acid can vary among individuals, making it challenging to establish a universal standard.


- Gout Triggers: Elevated uric acid doesn't guarantee gout, and some people with high levels never develop symptoms.


- Other Factors: Certain medications and medical conditions can affect uric acid levels, leading to potential false positives or negatives in test results.

3.

How Often Should a Person Test Uric Acid?

The frequency of testing uric acid levels can vary depending on individual health circumstances and medical recommendations. Typically, for individuals with gout or a history of high uric acid levels, testing may be done every few months to monitor levels and adjust treatment if necessary.

4.

Should a Person Need to Eat Before a Uric Acid Test?

Before a uric acid test, eating anything special is generally unnecessary. In most cases, fasting is not required for a uric acid test, and the person can usually have the test done while fasting or non-fasting.

5.

How Often Does Uric Acid Level Change?

Uric acid levels can change over time, and the frequency of these changes can vary from person to person. Several factors can influence uric acid levels, including diet, lifestyle, genetics, and underlying medical conditions.

6.

How Long Does It Take for Uric Acid Levels to Change?

Dietary and lifestyle choices, such as consuming purine-rich foods or alcohol, can lead to short-term increases in uric acid levels. These changes can occur within hours to days after consumption and may return to baseline relatively quickly once the triggering factor is removed. Long-term changes in uric acid levels may take weeks or months to become noticeable. For individuals with chronic conditions like gout or kidney disease, managing uric acid levels may be an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring and adjustment of treatment. Improvement in uric acid levels can be gradual over an extended period.

7.

What Time of Day Is Uric Acid Highest?

Uric acid levels in the body tend to be highest during the early morning hours, typically between 2:00 AM and 4:00 AM. This natural increase in uric acid is known as the "morning peak." It occurs because of the body's metabolic processes, including the breakdown of purines (substances found in certain foods and cells) during sleep.

8.

Where Does Uric Acid Come From?

Uric acid is a waste product that forms in the body during the breakdown of purines, which are natural substances found in certain foods and tissues. Purines are present in various foods, including organic meats, seafood, beer, and vegetables like spinach and asparagus.

9.

How Can a Person Monitor Uric Acid Levels?

The most common way to monitor uric acid levels is through a blood test. A blood sample, usually from a vein in your arm, is drawn and sent to a laboratory for analysis. The test measures the concentration of uric acid in the blood.

10.

How Can a Person Know if Their Uric Acid Is Increasing?

The person should be aware of symptoms that may indicate elevated uric acid levels, such as joint pain, swelling, or tenderness, especially in the big toe, which can be a sign of gout. Kidney stones, often accompanied by severe pain, can also be related to high uric acid.

11.

At What Age Does Uric Acid Increase?

Uric acid levels can increase at different ages for various individuals, and there is no specific age at which uric acid universally starts to rise.

12.

Are Uric Acid Testers Accurate?

Uric acid testers or uric acid meters designed for home use can provide reasonably accurate results. These devices typically analyze a small blood sample, often obtained from a finger prick, to measure uric acid levels.

13.

What Color Tube Is Used for Uric Acid Tests?

The color of the tube used for uric acid tests can vary depending on the laboratory and their specific testing protocol. However, the most commonly used tube color for uric acid testing is a lavender or purple-top tube. These tubes are typically used for various hematological and biochemical tests, including uric acid measurement.

14.

Is Fasting Suitable for Uric Acid?

Fasting is not a direct method for reducing uric acid levels in the body. However, some dietary and lifestyle considerations related to fasting can indirectly impact uric acid levels.

15.

How Does High Uric Acid Affect the Brain?

High uric acid levels in the bloodstream primarily affect the joints and kidneys, leading to conditions like gout and kidney stones. While the direct impact of high uric acid on the brain is not well-documented, some research suggests potential associations between elevated uric acid and certain neurological conditions like dementia and Alzheimer's.

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)

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