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What are purines and how do they affect gout?


What are purines and how do they affect gout ?

When someone is diagnosed with gout, the first thing that they are asked to cut down is purines. Before seeing what purine is and how it affects gout, one has to understand what gout is.


When the blood hashigher levels of uric acid, the person might develop a type of arthritis called Gout which can be really painful. The higher concentrations of uric acid can cause the production of sharp prickly crystals at the joints. This causes inflammation and aches in joints. Gout is also characterized by few other symptoms like:

  • Painful swelling and reddening of the big toe
  • Sore, stiff joints
  • Inflammation or pain in the ankles, knees, wrists, fingers, heels and other joints

A person might get gout in the following cases:

  • There is a sudden increase in uric acid production in the body
  • Kidneys are incapable of breaking down and removing the excess uric acid
  • The person suffers from obesity
  • There is a family history of gout
  • Purine breakdown is impacted due to any enzyme defects
  • The person has an unhealthy lifestyle or smoking and drinking issues
  • Lead exposure
  • When there is a lot of purines in the person’s diet

What are purines?

Purines are substances that can be found in all living cells. They are the main constituents in RNA and DNA. Purines being an important part of most living cells, they are found in many food items. They are manufactured internally in the body as well. In the liver purines are broken down into uric acids. Kidney breaks down and filters out the uric acids from the blood. This is normally how the process happens. When there is a sudden increase in the purines in the body, this leads to too much uric acid in the blood. Excess uric acid in the blood can lead to hyperuricemia. This further leads to kidney stones or gout. If hyperuricemia is diagnosed in the initial stages, the person is advised to avoid foods that have higher levels of purines.

Foods which have high purine content:

  • Foods which are rich in saturated fats
  • Meats
  • Few varieties of seafood
  • Sodas
  • Yeast
  • Alcohol, beer in particular

Though purines are found in almost all food items, the above is the list of those that have a higher content of purines. Those with gout should avoid these purine-rich foods.

How purines affect gout?

Purines enter the body from food. From dead cells, on their disintegration, the purines from the RNA and DNA are released. The body then breaks down the purines to release uric acid, which helps protect the linings of blood vessels from damage. Uric acid is a useful antioxidant. Normal levels of uric acid are essential for the body. The problem starts when:

  • When due to some reason the cell breakdown rate suddenly increases, there is excess purine released.
  • When due to improper functioning of kidneys, the uric acid breakdown rate goes down
  • When the diet has higher content of purines in it than allowed

In all these cases, the excess uric acid that accumulates in the blood can lead to the formation of monosodium urate crystals in the joints, kidneys, tendons and thus leading to gout.

So people diagnosed with gout can benefit from cutting down the purine-rich food items.

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