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Uric Acid and Gout

Uric Acid and Gout

Last week the medical press was briefly filled with the revelation that gout is a hidden epidemic in our country - (for example Daily Mail 16 Jan 2014 - "Why Boozy Britain is the Gout Capital of Europe") - with all sorts of potentially scary consequences. At Blue Horizon we were not overly surprised to receive this latest body of evidence - we have noticed over the past few years a number of marginally elevated uric acid readings on many of our clients' health screening blood tests. Uric acid excess is what causes gout. But often these individuals will have had no symptoms at all. And gout is not only an affliction of the port swigging game munching gentry.


What is the problem with uric acid (urate) then? Uric acid is a normal 'end product' of purine breakdown (or more generally speaking from various proteins) in our bodies. Whenever we eat protein (meat, offal, beer etc), we digest it in our gut and absorb the various component parts - purines are some of them. Purines are carried in the blood stream to our organs, where they are formed into new proteins specific for our needs. When these proteins have done their job, they too are broken down and one of the waste products formed is uric acid.


Normally, a little is made and our bodies can cope with that. If too much is made - either because we cannot handle it well or because we have assaulted our systems with too much protein - the uric acid level will rise, eventually reaching a point where it effectively comes out of solution and deposits in our joints - causing often exquisite tenderness, swelling and heat. Classically it is the big toe which is affected - but any joint can become 'gouty'.


It has been estimated that up to 1 in 40 (that is 1.5 million) of us has gout, and the numbers are on the increase. The UK now has the highest reported prevalence of gout. Some of us have a genetic predisposition for the condition, and it is more common in men (by a factor of 4). Some medication can trigger gout. The risk is greater for the obese, and those who are diabetic, have high blood pressure or drink too much alcohol. It is thus another disease of the more affluent developed world.


It is a painful condition, and may be confused for 'wear and tear' arthritis - but treatment is available, for both the acute attack and to prevent relapse. Obviously, the attacks can be made less likely for some if preventive measures are taken - losing weight, controlling diabetes, cutting back on the alcohol etc. Dietary modifications, including swapping steak for soya and eating more cherries may pay dividends too.


So - are you one of the possibly hundreds of thousands who just put up with attacks of acutely painful joints, or do you think you might be at risk? A Health Check for uric acid in the blood is relatively cheap, and is included as standard within the Health screening Blue, Plus V or PLUS X. Act today!
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Other Blood Testing Services by Blue Horizon Medicals.
All of the services outlined above rely on the postal service not just to send the kits to you, but also to get your blood back to the Laboratory.This is fine for the majority of tests on this website but sometimes a test that you require will have special handling requirements such as freezing, a need to be spun down by a centrifuge, or have a need for immediate testing. In these situations, and also where turnaround time cannot be reliant on the postal service we recommend that you speak to us about the other services that we can offer you. For speed we recommend our London Service, but we have some good profiles available through 60 Spire and BMI Hospitals across the UK.