Uric acid is a chemical produced when the body breaks down a substance called purines, which are found in the food and drinks we consume on a daily basis. For example, purines are found in beer, liver, anchovies, beans, peas, snack foods, sugary drinks, shellfish, etc. Uric acid usually dissolves into our blood and travels to the urinary tract, and into the kidneys. From the kidneys, it goes to the bladder, where it is removed from your body during urination.
If you have high levels of uric acid in your blood, meaning too much of it is being produced, this is known as a condition called hyperuricemia. As mentioned before, the body is usually able to remove uric acid from the blood when the liver metabolizes it, and is expelled through urination or through the intestines. If the kidneys are unable to remove enough uric acid when you go to the bathroom, or if too much is being produced, the level of uric acid builds up and increases.
If you are a person who eats a lot of plant-based or animal-based foods, you may have a large amount of uric acid in your body, which can be detrimental to your health. When your diet contains a high concentration of purines, the uric acid levels in our blood increases, which can cause further complications such as gout, where solid crystals of uric acid form and build up within your joints.
The Connection of Gout and Kidney Stones
Gout is an inflammatory form of arthritis that forms when these uric acid crystals collect within the joints and tissues of the body, causing severe pain and swelling, stiffness, loss of function, and mobility. Gout attacks range from mild to severe, and can heighten your risk for developing kidney stones, and could even lead to kidney failure (renal failure) if left untreated. Studies have shown that patients with gout are 60 percent more likely to develop kidney stones.
Kidney stones, also known as renal lithiasis, are similar to gout in that they are both related to a high concentration of uric acid in the blood. However, like uric acid crystals, kidney stones occur when minerals such as calcium and phosphate build up and form pebble-like stones in the urinary tract (bladder and kidneys), which will often cause severe pain in the stomach, groin, or lower back. People with kidney stones will have a hard time urinating without pain.
Having a buildup of minerals can produce kidney stones, in addition to the damage that increased uric acid can have. Among the different types of kidney stones, uric acid stones are the hardest to diagnose since they are not spotted that easily through diagnostic tests. Therefore, as mentioned before, if you suffer from gout, you are at an increased risk of developing kidney stones, which can get larger if you wait too long.
Causes like heightened uric acid levels, dehydration, and increased alcohol consumption can lead to the onset of gout, and put you at higher risk for developing kidney stones. The connection between gout and kidney stones, is that uric acid crystals can deposit themselves in the kidneys, and can turn into these kidney stones, small or large. This in return, can cause you to have an infection, permanent kidney damage, chronic kidney disease, kidney failure (meaning need of dialysis or a transplant), or worse – lead to death.
Therefore, to avoid these nightmare outcomes, it is important that you see your urologist as soon as possible, so they can recommend a uric acid blood test be done, to check your level of uric acid. If your uric acid levels are determined to be too high, or you have been given a diagnosis of gout or kidney stones, the best treatment will be recommended based on your case. If you have gout and want to decrease your chances of developing kidney stones in the future, your urologist will recommend that you should keep your uric acid levels low. Certain medications can help with this, in addition to exercise, eating a diet with low uric acid levels or high-purine foods, and constantly drinking water to stay hydrated. Being hydrated will help flush the uric acid out your system and reduce the chance of it building up.
To learn more about how gout and kidney stones are related conditions, and how to reduce the chance of occurrence, call Dr. Avila and Ironwood Urology at (480) 961-2323, or you can request an appointment online.