High uric acid levels in blood lead to crystallization of the acid and when these crystals get deposited in joints in extremities, the person experiences severe pain, especially in one of the foot joints. The condition is medically termed as gout which is a type of arthritis. If the condition is overlooked or neglected, the crystal deposits in the joints or nearby tissues can turn into hard lumps. These lumps are referred to as tophi. Let us first take a look at what are the normal levels of uric acid and what are the gout symptoms.
Uric Acid Levels in Blood
The normal uric acid level range is 3.0 - 7.0 mg/dL (milligram per deciliter). It is formed during purine metabolism and is thrown out of the body through urine. If the body is not able to excrete the uric acid through urine (kidney dysfunction), or if the body is producing it in excess, then high uric acid levels are noticed. Such levels can seriously affect the health of a person. Purines, the nitrogenous compounds, are naturally present in various types of foods, for example, in mushrooms, green peas, wheat bran, meat products, and fish. A person diagnosed with gout needs to avoid purine-rich foods.
Low levels of uric acid are rarely noticed. Diseases of the kidney or liver, frequent exposure to toxic chemicals and genetic disposition (hereditary defects) are usually responsible for low uric acid.
Crystallization of uric acid takes place when the level rises above 6.8 mg/dL (0.40 mmol/L). So, the level above 6.8 mg/dL is considered as dangerous. Those who are already diagnosed with gout, need to maintain the level at around 6 mg/dL (0.35 mmol/L). Uric acid level below 6 is obviously safe, but 6 to 6.8 is considered as risky and above 6.8 is really harmful to the body.
A simple blood test known as uric acid test helps measure the amount in blood. The condition wherein high levels are noticed is called 'hyperuricemia' and such a situation is possible if a person has developed gout, diabetes, hypoparathyroidism, renal problems, lead poisoning. High uric acid is also noticed as a side effect of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Every year, millions of youngsters and elderly are diagnosed with gout.
Elevated blood uric acid levels and gout attacks go hand in hand. Overload of uric acid in blood results in formation and deposition of its crystals in the joints, especially in foot. Gout symptoms include:
- Extreme pain in the small joint at the base of the big toe
- Severe pain in joints at the ankles, knees, wrists, fingers, and elbows.
- Reddened skin at the affected joint
- Increased tenderness at the affected joint
- Warmth and swelling around the affected joint
- Pain is experienced over hours or days
- The pain may subside without medication but it will take its own time
- Sudden occurrence of pain and swelling
- Repetitive acute attacks of pain and swelling
- Difficulty bending the leg if the knee is paining
- Difficulty walking
To prevent high uric acid levels, you should follow a gout prevention diet. Meat, seafood, legumes, certain vegetables like spinach, cauliflower, asparagus, mushrooms, alcohol, etc., should be avoided by those diagnosed with the disease. Overweight people should try to reduce their weight by following weight loss diets. This helps reduce the number of attacks and also the severity of the attacks. Natural gout treatment involves regular exercise, sufficient intake of vitamin C through consumption of fruits and fruit juices, soaking your feet in ginger water for half an hour, applying a paste of mustard powder and whole wheat powder (taken in equal proportion) over the achy joints and drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Cherries, apples and bananas work great for gout.
Gout can affect anybody, young or old; but it is more common in men. Women have an increased risk after menopause. Dehydration, injury, high body temperature, heavy meals, excessive consumption of alcohol, recent trauma or surgery can trigger an attack. Gout being a chronic, progressive disease, long-term management of the disease plays an important role in preventing future attacks.