Uric Acid Test

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Also known as: Urate
Formal name: Uric Acid

At a Glance

Why Get Tested?

To detect high levels of uric acid, which could be a sign of the condition gout, or to monitor uric acid levels when undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy; to detect high levels of uric acid in the urine in order to diagnose the cause of kidney stones and to monitor those with gout who are at risk of developing such stones.  Uric Acid is also measured as part of the assessment of pre-eclampsia.

When to Get Tested?

When you have joint pain or other symptoms that your doctor suspects may be due to gout; when monitoring certain chemotherapy or radiation therapies for cancer; when you have recurrent kidney stones; when you have gout or are otherwise at risk for kidney stone formation

Sample Required?

A blood sample taken from a vein in the arm or a 24-hour urine sample

Test Preparation Needed?

None may be needed however some institutions recommend fasting.  Follow any instructions you are given.

The Test Sample

What is being tested?

Uric acid is produced by the breakdown of purines, which are nitrogen-containing compounds found in the body in substances such as nucleic acids (DNA, RNA).  They enter the circulation from digestion of certain foods, drinks (alcoholic beverages like beer and wine) or from normal breakdown and turnover of cells in the body.  Most uric acid is removed by the kidneys and disposed of in the urine; the remainder is excreted in the stools.

If too much uric acid is produced or not enough is excreted, it can accumulate in the body and cause increased levels in the blood (hyperuricemia).  The presence of excess uric acid can cause the condition called gout – an inflammation that occurs in joints when crystals derived from uric acid form in the joint fluid.  Excess uric acid can also lead to kidney disease, as a result of deposition in the kidneys or kidney stone formation, as a result of increased urinary excretion.

The accumulation of too much uric acid is due to either increased production, decreased elimination or a combination of both. Increased production can be caused by, for example, increased cell death, as may be seen with some cancer treatments, or, rarely, may be due to an inherited tendency to overproduce uric acid. Decreased elimination of uric acid is often a result of impaired kidney function due to kidney disease. In many cases, the exact cause of excess uric acid is unknown. Doctors seldom need to test for low levels of uric acid.

Uric acid levels are also increased in pre-eclampsia and may be measured as part of the assessment of this condition.

How is the sample collected for testing?

A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein in your arm. A 24-hour urine sample may be collected for urine uric acid measurement.

NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.

Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.

Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?

None may be needed however some institutions recommend fasting. Follow any instructions you are given.

The Test

Common Questions

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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.