High Uric Acid: What are the Consequences?

Having high uric acid doesn't necessarily cause symptoms, but it does increase the risk of cardiovascular or kidney disease. Diet is a fundamental pillar of its treatment. Learn more in this article.
High Uric Acid: What are the Consequences?

Written by Carmen Martín

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Having high uric acid is called hyperuricemia in medicinal terms. It happens when the body produces the uric acid substance after metabolizing molecules called purines. We acquire purines through foods such as beans, anchovies, or liver.

High uric acid is a condition that affects a large part of the population. People often associate it directly with gout disease, which is a syndrome characterized by inflammation of the joints. However, hyperuricemia can cause many other health issues.

The incidence of this situation is increasing, because we currently don’t eat as healthily as we should. Although it’s been shown that there’s a great genetic influence, specialists know that food is one of the main triggers of this problem.

In this article, we’ll explain everything you should know about having high uric acid. It’s important to know the possible consequences to be aware and take more care of our lifestyle.

What are the causes of high uric acid?

As we’ve already mentioned, having high uric acid is related to diet. Having an unbalanced diet, very rich in red meat, seafood and fish causes its concentration to rise. In addition, specialists also link alcohol to this health issue.

However, these aren’t the only factors that have an influence. According to recent studies, men are more at risk of suffering from this condition than women. Interestingly, doing intense physical exercise for a long time can also cause uric acid to rise.

Similarly, there are certain health issues that doctors associate it with, such as diabetes or kidney disease. Having been treated with chemotherapy for some type of cancer can cause it.

A meat table
Meats are one of the foods that raise uric acid levels the most when consumed in excess.

What are the consequences?

Most people have heard of uric acid because of gout. In fact, many people associate this health issue simply with feeling pain in their big toe. However, this view is quite oblivious to all the consequences that high uric acid can produce.

It’s important to know that doctors link this substance with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. High uric acid causes a decrease in nitric oxide. It’s an essential factor for our blood vessels to dilate and for blood flow to be correct.

Therefore, when nitric oxide decreases, the arteries become stiffer and it’s easier for a vascular problem to occur. For example, the risk of hypertension and arteriosclerosis increases.

The truth is that most patients suffering from this condition have no symptoms. This further complicates the situation because the patient detects the problem when there’s already damage to the vessels or organs such as the kidney.

Kidney disease

The kidneys filter and excrete uric acid in urine. What happens is that when concentrations are very high, stones can form inside the kidney. These stones eventually cause damage to the organ.

Gout and high uric acid

Gout is a syndrome that occurs because uric acid crystals are deposited inside the joints and damage them. Joint pain is the most common symptom. Most often it affects the big toe.

In addition to pain, the joint may swell and be red. As gout progresses, the joint loses mobility. Many people experience persistent discomfort.

A toe with gout
Gout is the characteristic disease of hyperuricemia.

How do doctors diagnose it?

Usually, hyperuricemia doesn’t produce any symptoms. In fact, specialists estimate that almost 7% of men have it. However, doctors can check the concentration of uric acid with a simple blood test.

Therefore, you should visit your doctor frequently and get routine tests done. Thus, even if there aren’t any symptoms yet,  you can implement preventive measures to avoid complications. For example, improve your diet.

If the patient has felt any type of manifestation in the joints, doctors usually extract synovial fluid from them for analysis. They also use X-rays, ultrasound, and other techniques to confirm the diagnosis.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.