by Robert S. Dinsmoor
A condition marked by an excess of uric acid in the body. It can set the stage for gout. Uric acid is produced naturally by the body and is also produced when the body metabolizes substances called purines that are found in some foods. Uric acid normally dissolves in the blood, is filtered out of the blood by the kidneys, and is then excreted in the urine. However, it can build up in the bloodstream when the body increases the amount of uric acid it makes, when the kidneys fail to get rid of it efficiently, or when a person consumes too many foods and drinks high in purines (such as liver, dried beans and peas, anchovies, and alcohol).
In gout, uric acid in the bloodstream forms crystals that are deposited in the joints, especially the joint of the big toe, causing pain, swelling, redness, heat, and stiffness. Episodes of gout, called attacks, can be treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, or a drug called colchicine. Medicines such as allopurinol (brand names Aloprim, Zyloprim) may be used to lower uric acid levels and prevent future gout attacks. Most people with hyperuricemia, however, do not develop gout — gout only develops if the uric acid crystallizes and is deposited in the joints.
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