A uric acid blood test determines how much uric acid is in your blood.  The test can help determine how well your body produces and removes uric acid.

What is uric acid?

Uric acid is a waste by-product.  It forms when your body breaks down purines that are found in some foods.  Purines also turn up when cells die and are taken apart.  Most of the uric acid leaves your body when you urinate.

What causes high levels of uric acid?

Primarily, hyperuricaemia or high levels of uric acid is the result of either the body producing too much uric acid or the kidneys not clearing it fast enough.

Other causes for high levels of uric acid include:

  • Certain cancers or chemotherapy: It increases the turnover rate of cell death.
  • Kidney disease reduces the clearing of uric acid out of your system, thus causing hyperuricemia.
  • Certain medications can increase the levels of uric acid in the blood. For example, immunosuppressive medication and water pills (diuretics).
  • Endocrine or metabolic conditions such as certain forms of diabetes or acidosis can cause hyperuricemia.

Foods that are high in purine include:

  • All organ meats (such as liver), meat extracts and gravy.
  • Seafood.
  • Yeasts and yeast extracts (such as beer and alcoholic beverages).
  • Asparagus, spinach, beans, peas, lentils, oatmeal, cauliflower and mushrooms.
  • Drinks sweetened with fruit sugar (fructose).

The impact of alcohol consumption on uric acid

Alcohol use increases uric acid levels in three ways:

  1. Alcohol, like red meat and seafood is high in purines. When your body breaks down purines, the process releases uric acid.
  2. Alcohol also intensifies the body’s production of uric acid. It increases the metabolism of nucleotides.  These are an additional source of purines for uric acid production.
  3. Alcohol also reduces the rate at which your body removes uric acid.

What is a uric acid test?

This test measures the amount of uric acid in your blood or urine.

For a uric acid urine test, you collect all urine passed in a 24-hour period (a 24-hour urine sample).  A laboratory then analyses the urine sample.

For a blood test there are 2 options.  Collect a drop of blood from a finger prick and test it with a test strip and reader (as in the picture above).  This provides immediate results.  Alternatively, a blood test can also be done at a laboratory.

Normal uric acid levels are 2.4-6.0 mg/dL (female) and 3.4-7.0 mg/dL (male).