Uric acid stones can be painful. These stones are related to the ability of our body to process uric acid. In this article we learn why they form, what treatments are available and what you can do.
Uric acid stones
A kidney stone is a hard mass of crystallized minerals that form in the kidneys or urinary tract. There are four major types kidney stones. They include cacium stones, struvie stones, cystine stones and uric acid stones.
Formation of uric acid stones
Uric acid is a byproduct of the breakdown of compounds in our body called “purines”. Purines exist in our bodies and in our food. Purines help us to produce our bodily energy and protein needs.
Our kidneys process the majority of the uric acid in our body. This uric acid is then expelled in our urine. Some uric acid is expelled via our intestinal track.
Sometimes our kidneys cannot process all the uric acid in our body. This can be because we have too much uric acid, or our kidneys are damaged.
Too much uric acid can result in crystals forming in joints. This condition is called gout. It can also result in kidney stones in our kidney or urinary tract.
Kidney stones form when urate crystals can appear in the kidneys and urinary tract and clog together to form kidney stones.
There are a number of identified risk factors which include:
- Medical conditions
- Age and sex
Lets explores these in more detail.
Uric acid results from purines in our diet. Purines are found in animal proteins such as beef, poultry, pork, eggs, and fish. The highest levels of purines are found in organ meats, such as liver, and fish.
When our diets contains large amounts of animal proteins this can cause uric acid to build up in our urine. The uric acid can then settle and form a stone by itself or in combination with calcium.
Reducing animal proteins in our diet may be one way of reducing uric acid in our urine and reducing our chances of kidney stones.
There is an increased risk of uric acid stones in those who are obese. It has been reported that this increase is due to diet and/or metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is often associated with diabetes. Metabolic syndrome leads to a change in the acid/base balance of the body. This change can lead to overly acidic urine and thus leading to uric acid stones.
- Certain medical conditions lead to an increased risk of uric acid stones such as:
- Type 2 diabetes can make urine more acidic, which encourages stones
- Uric acid stones occur in people with bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
- Gout is a condition when uric acid builds up in the blood and form crystals in the joints and the kidneys.
Patients on chemotherapy are prone to developing uric acid stones.
Age and sex
Men have higher uric acid levels than women. Therefore men generally have a higher incidence of uric acid stones than women.
After menopause women’s uric acid levels increase. Therefore, with increasing age the incidence of uric acid stones in women increase.