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As a child, I remember my nani complaining about severe joint pain. At that time, because of the lack of awareness, we assumed it would be arthritis and didn’t give it much notice thinking it’s related to old age. Recently, when my mother started experiencing the pain as well, we realized we should investigate the root cause of it.
The doctor we visited asked us to get my mother’s uric acid blood test done which basically is used to measure the level of uric acid in the blood. When we got the reports, it was quite high. Although my mother didn’t have any gout, which is a complex form of arthritis that causes pain and inflammation, it was not something to be taken lightly.
After my mother’s diagnosis, I had many questions. I talked with Dr. Salil Jain, Director and Head of the Department of nephrology and kidney transplant at the Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon for some concrete answers and to understand the condition better.
Dr. Salil clarified what uric acid is
“As the name suggests, our urine is made up of uric acid. Most of our body’s uric acid is released when we urinate or from the stool. Uric acid is nothing but a waste byproduct that our body has created by the breakdown of purine, which is also a form of protein mostly found in the meat, mushroom or protein supplements,” explained Dr. Salil.
You, see when our kidneys don’t eliminate uric acid which is produced in the body, it starts accumulating in our blood. Dr. Salil mentioned two other probable reasons as to why it happens. He said: “This happens when the intake of protein-rich food is higher especially which contains purine and it could also happen when there is some kind of medication or malignancy–the breaking down the cells.”
We asked the doctor how dangerous it is for the elderly and how we can help our parents if they suffer from it
Dr. Salil suggests visiting a doctor with your parents and discussing their diet history so that the doctor can assess if it’s because of the diet or other factors. If the diet is completely alright, then it can be ruled out as the cause behind this problem. The medical professionals can proceed to analyze the kidneys or check for any malignancy in the body through a CT scan.
“The problem can be controlled by keeping the body hydrated, taking protein in moderation, consuming less purine and, if all of this is under control, getting tested for a kidney stone can be the best bet,” he explains.
What happens when it’s not treated?
While Dr. Salil suggests that there’s nothing to panic about, he also emphasised on the fact that if our parents have had this issue for a prolonged period of time, it could be serious.
When the issue is left unattended for a very long time, the uric acid gets deposited, either on the joints or in the kidney as a stone. This could lead to sharp and unbearable pain and the function of the kidney might also get hampered if it’s not treated at the right time.
Dr. Salil concluded by saying, “If there’s consistent pain in the joints, then go for the tests and reduce protein intake. Any protein supplement should be taken under the doctor’s guidance and cardiac patients should always consult their doctor for the best advice and must avoid the advice given for the general public.”
So, we need to ensure that our parents visit a doctor when they’re facing this issue so that a correct diagnosis along with an effective treatment plan can be figured out.