Uric acid is a waste product the body produces as it breaks down purines. The body then removes it through urine and stool. A person can take a uric acid test to determine the uric acid level in their blood or urine.

Producing uric acid is part of an important process the body uses to regulate the liver.

However, the proper functioning of metabolism and gut and renal excretion is key in making sure uric acid levels do not build up.

The medical term for when uric acid levels become too high is hyperuricemia.

A buildup of uric acid can cause problems such as gout, kidney stones, and diabetes.

Although less common, uric acid levels can also become too low. This is called hypouricemia. This may result from a person taking certain medications or having an underlying disease such as neoplasia or diabetes.

Whether too high or too low, uric acid levels outside the healthy range can have adverse health effects. If uric acid levels are outside the normal range, it is important to manage them accordingly.

This article looks at how and why doctors test uric acid levels, who may need a uric acid test, how to prepare for a uric acid test, and what results mean.

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A uric acid test enables a doctor to assess how well the body produces and disposes of uric acid.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can affect the metabolism and, as a result, put people at higher risk of hyperuricemia. Because of this, someone undergoing such cancer treatment may need regular uric acid testing.

In other cases, people may require testing because they show symptoms of conditions that relate to hyperuricemia.

Uric acid samples usually come from urine or blood serum or plasma, but it is also possible to assess uric acid levels in exhaled breath condensate (EBC).

A doctor is likely to take blood samples when monitoring the uric acid levels of a person undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment or testing for conditions such as gout.

If a person shows signs or symptoms of kidney stones, or if a doctor thinks they may have gout that would lead to kidney stone formation, the doctor is more likely to request a 24-hour urine sample. This is where a person collects their urine for 24 hours.

Having uric acid levels outside of the normal range can cause several health issues.

Conditions that stem from high uric acid levels range from gout, a type of arthritis, to atherosclerosis, where plaque builds up and clogs the arteries. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Having low uric acid levels can worsen the outlook for people with central nervous system diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, and increase risk when people contract viruses such as viral meningitis.

Identifying when uric acid levels are outside the healthy range is important.

For people experiencing symptoms of uric acid-related conditions, a test can enable a doctor to diagnose the condition and manage it.

Those monitoring uric acid levels due to ongoing treatment can use the results to modify their diet and prevent adverse effects from occurring.

Some people need regular uric acid testing because they are at risk of having their levels reach beyond the healthy range. This includes those who are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Others may require a test because they are experiencing symptoms of a condition related to uric acid. A common example is gout. Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis that develops when uric acid levels become too high. Gout flareups can be extremely painful and may last for days or months.

Signs and symptoms of gout include:

  • intense joint pain
  • redness
  • swelling
  • heat

Someone recovering from or experiencing recurring kidney stones may require regular uric acid testing to work out what is causing the stones to form.

Medical testing sometimes requires certain preparations, such as fasting.

Uric acid tests usually do not require any preparation beforehand.

However, some clinics provide specific instructions. A person should follow any preparation advice their clinic gives.

Doctors perform each type of uric acid test differently. Doctors usually take samples from blood or urine to test uric acid concentrations.

Blood test

Blood tests can look for uric acid levels in blood serum or plasma. A healthcare professional will usually draw blood samples from an arm vein.

Urine test

With a urine sample, a person collects all the urine they pass for 24 hours.

The clinic provides a collection container for the person to use. It is best to store the container holding the urine somewhere dark and cool, such as a refrigerator, when it is not in use.

After collecting samples, the doctor will send them to a laboratory for analysis.

A healthy uric acid level typically ranges from 2.5 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) to 7.0 mg/dl in males and 1.5 mg/dl to 6.0 mg/dl in females.

If a test comes back showing that concentrations are greater than 7.0 mg/dl in males and 6.0 mg/dl in females, uric acid levels are too high and the person has hyperuricemia.

Similarly, if the results show that uric acid concentrations are lower than the healthy ranges discussed above, the person’s uric acid levels are too low.

A doctor will be able to discuss further steps if treatment is necessary.

Conditions that develop from high or low uric acid levels are mostly treatable, but they are important to diagnose.

Without proper identification and management, these conditions can be life-threatening.

A person may need a uric acid test if they are:

  • experiencing symptoms of a condition caused by high or low uric acid levels
  • undergoing cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • monitoring kidney stones

Maintaining a healthy level of uric acid concentration in the blood and urine is important for complex bodily processes, such as metabolic function.

Most conditions that result from unhealthy uric acid levels are treatable, but without diagnosis and management, certain conditions can have critical consequences.