Definition of hyperuricemia (high uric acid level)
A high uric acid level, or hyperuricemia, is an excess of uric acid in your blood. Uric acid is produced during the breakdown of purine, a substance found in many foods. Once produced, uric acid is carried in your blood and passes through your kidneys, where most of it leaves your body when you urinate.
A high uric acid level may result in attacks of gout, but not everyone who has high uric acid gets gout, and not everyone with gout has high uric acid.
Causes of hyperuricemia (high uric acid level)
A high uric acid level can be caused when your body either produces too much uric acid or your kidneys don’t eliminate uric acid rapidly enough.
A high uric acid level may cause increasingly frequent attacks of gout, or it may never cause problems. A high uric acid level may also cause some people to develop kidney stones or kidney failure. And some people with a high uric acid level also develop high blood pressure, heart disease or chronic kidney disease, but it’s often unclear whether this is a direct cause or merely an early warning sign of these conditions.
Factors that may cause a high uric acid level in your blood include:
- Diuretic medications (water pills)
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Genetics (inherited tendencies)
- Hypothyroidism (a thyroid disorder)
- Immune-suppressing drugs
- Niacin, or vitamin B-3
- Purine-rich diet — organ meat, game meat, anchovies, herring, gravy, dried beans, dried peas, mushrooms and other foods
- Renal insufficiency — inability of the kidneys to filter waste
- Tumor lysis syndrome — a rapid release of cells into the blood caused by certain cancers or by chemotherapy for those cancers
Also, you may be monitored for high uric acid levels when undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer.
When to see a doctor
Your doctor may check to see if you have a high uric acid level if you have had an attack of gout, although you can have a gout attack even if your uric acid level is normal. You may have no symptoms with a high uric acid level; it’s often found when your doctor tests for another condition.
If you’re concerned that one of your medications may be causing your high uric acid level, talk to your doctor. In the meantime, continue taking your medications unless your doctor tells you otherwise.