What Is Uric Acid? - Levels, Causes & Symptoms Video

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  • 0:02 What is Uric Acid?
  • 1:22 Causes of Increased Uric Acid
  • 2:45 Problems
  • 4:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kimberly Carpenter

Kimberly has an undergraduate degree in Lab Sciences and a Master's degree in Education.

This lesson will explain the definition of uric acid and how it is generated inside of the body based on foods consumed in a person's normal diet. It will also discuss causes and symptoms of increased uric levels.

What Is Uric Acid?

Have you ever seen a person walking down a hallway who has ankles that have swollen to the size of your thighs? This is often not due to the person overeating or missing time on the exercise bike for months on end. Many individuals have a condition known as gout due to an excess in the levels of uric acid circulating throughout their bodies on a fairly regular basis. We'll talk more about gout in another lesson. The important piece of information here is the key factor involved behind the condition, which is an excess of uric acid in your blood.

Uric acid is a product produced by the body after the purines in many foods undergo the digestive process and are broken down inside the body. After this breakdown process, the uric acid travels through the bloodstream into your kidneys and most is actually eliminated through the urinary tract via urination. However, there are instances where you may have an excess of uric acid and are unable to excrete the bulk of this substance through urination. This is the beginning of a significant problem and is where gout comes into play. You may have an increased amount of uric acid in your body because of two ultimate reasons: either your body produces too much of the substance during the digestive breakdown or your kidneys are unable to filter all of the uric acid out of your body properly.

Causes of Increased Uric Acid

There are things you can do to increase the levels of uric acid in your blood and also there are things that cause the uric acid levels to increase without you being fully aware of this taking place. For many people, eating the wrong foods will cause an increase in the amount of uric acid produced because of the purines in the food. Many meats contain higher levels of purines. If you eat a diet high in these types of foods, you will consume more purines than others. These will, of course, all be broken down in the digestive process and must be eliminated through the kidneys and urinary tract. The problem, as we discussed, lies in the fact that either the kidneys not having the ability to filter out all of the uric acid or the amount of uric acid being too much for the kidneys to handle.

However, besides foods, there are other causes for increases in uric acid, although the eventual outcome will essentially be the same. Various medical conditions such as hypertension, hypothyroidism, leukemia, obesity, and other genetic tendencies can predispose you to have an increase in uric acid no matter how healthy your diet may be. Also, certain medications, such as vitamins, diuretics, and cancer drugs or drugs to suppress the immune system, will often react with the body and affect the digestive system, thus affecting the general breakdown of uric acid in the body.

Fluorescent Uric Acid Crystals
Fluorescent Uric Acid Crystals

Problems

Increased levels of uric acid can cause several different problems, and the potential development of gout is only one of them. Other problems concerning increased uric acid in the body can be the development and ultimate passage of kidney stones, an increase in your blood pressure on a regular basis leading to hypertension, or even the beginning of kidney failure in some rare instances.

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