Diagnosing osteoarthritis (OA) through a medical history, physical exam and x-ray is fairly straightforward, but predicting the progression – or how much osteoarthritis will worsen in any one person – is much harder.
Researchers may have found one indicator that can help them do just this. High levels of uric acid are most often associated with gout, another form of arthritis. However, research published in Arthritis & Rheumatology in 2017 found that people with OA who have high uric acid levels and are not diagnosed with gout could experience a faster progression of their OA.
Understanding Uric Acid
Uric acid is a substance that forms normally when the body breaks down purines, which are found in human cells and in many foods. Normally, the blood transports uric acid to the kidneys and it is eliminated in urine.
There are some people who either produce too much uric acid or they produce the normal amount, but their kidneys can’t process it efficiently and it builds up, leading to higher than normal levels.
There are also some lifestyle factors that can contribute to high levels of uric acid. A diet that is heavy in high purine foods such as shellfish, sweet breads, red meat and gravies can cause uric acid levels to rise, and obesity and heavy beer consumption can also be contributing factors.
How to Lower Uric Acid
If your uric acid levels are really high or you have been diagnosed with gout, your doctor may have prescribed medication to help lower your levels. It is important to take this drug as prescribed to keep those levels down.
There are a few other ways that you can help keep your uric acid levels down.
- Drink up. Staying hydrated helps flush the uric acid out of your system and can help prevent kidney stones – another potential problem associated with high uric acid levels. Try to drink 8 to sixteen cups of fluids a day, at least half of them water.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol should not be part of your fluid intake if you have high uric acid levels. Alcohol, and beer in particular, are high in purines. Besides inhibiting the elimination of uric acid, the body actually creates uric acid when it metabolizes purines.
- Watch what you eat. You may need to revamp your menu by cutting back or eliminating entirely foods like red meat, shellfish and other foods high in purines in order to lower your level of uric acid.
More still needs to be learned about the connection between high uric acid levels and the progression of OA, but it is possible that testing for it might not only help to predict progression but might be a way of measuring the effectiveness of OA treatments.