Uric Acid

Other names: Urate

Uric acid is produced when purines are broken down in the body; purines are a form of chemical, which come from nucleic acid (a component of DNA). Purines enter the body through food and are also produced when cells are broken down; the kidneys remove most of the body’s uric acid and excrete it into the urine or the faeces. If uric acid is not excreted, it can start to build up, which may result in a condition known as gout.

When is the test used?

The test is used to evaluate the breakdown of cells and the excretion of uric acid.

The test is usually ordered when a doctor suspects that a patient has high levels of uric acid, which may result in gout. Gout is an inherited disorder, which affects the breakdown of purine. Symptoms of gout include joint pain, inflammation, itching and peeling, flaky skin over the affected joint. The test may be repeated if a patient has been diagnosed with gout to check that the treatment is working.

The test may also be ordered if a patient is undergoing radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

How is the test performed?

The test is done by taking a sample of blood from a vein in the patient’s arm (usually a vein on the inside of the elbow is used); a needle is inserted into the vein and the blood is collected in a syringe. Once the sample has been collected the blood will be placed in a sample bottle, labelled with the patient’s name and sent to the laboratory for analysis.

What do the test results mean?

If the test results show that levels of uric acid are higher than usual, this means there is a problem with the breakdown of purines. The doctor will usually order further tests to determine whether the body is producing too much uric acid or there is a problem with kidney function.

Certain forms of medication can affect the levels of uric acid in the blood; consequently, it is important that patients tell their doctor about any medication they are taking or have recently taken prior to the test being carried out.

If a patient has been diagnosed with gout or uric acid kidney stones, they will be advised to avoid foods which are high in purines; examples of these foods include sardines and anchovies.

Specific Blood Tests

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