Do I need to treat my high uric acid if I've had only one attack of gout?

Howard E. Lewine, MD
If you've only had gout once, you probably don't need medicine to lower your uric acid level.

Uric acid comes from the breakdown of purines. Purines are a group of chemicals that are in all body tissues and in many foods. Our bodies are always processing purines. Normally our bodies, especially our kidneys, can keep uric acid levels from getting too high.

When blood uric acid levels rise above 7.0 mg/dL (men) or 5.7 mg/dL (women), it's called hyperuricemia. This happens when you make too much uric acid or your kidneys can't get rid of normal uric acid production. Or it could be a combination of both problems.

Not everyone with hyperuricemia gets gout. In fact, only 1 out of 5 people do. Today, 21% of American adults have hyperuricemia. And only 4% of them also have gout.

The are a few main reasons for taking daily medicine to lower blood uric acid levels. For instance, you've had:
  • More than 2 or 3 attacks of gout per year
  • Attacks of gout that don't respond quickly to anti-inflammatory medicine
  • Kidney stones related to high levels of uric acid in urine
  • Gout that attacks multiple joints at the same time (polyarticular gout)
  • The presence of tophi. Tophi are clumps of uric acid crystals that can form anywhere in the body. When they form, they often can be seen on the skin. Typical places are near joints and the outer ear.
You can help lower uric acid levels by:
  • Eating only the calories you really need
  • Exercising regularly to keep up a healthy body weight
  • Avoiding red meats, especially processed meats
  • Limiting sugary foods and beverages
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation or not at all
Coffee (both regular and decaffeinated) also lowers uric acid levels, as long as you don't add too much sugar. In some people, vitamin C can help lower uric acid levels too.
Harvard Medical School Arthritis: Keeping your joints healthy

More About this Book

Harvard Medical School Arthritis: Keeping your joints healthy

If you have arthritis, you can take steps to protect your joints, reduce discomfort, and improve mobility all of which are detailed in this report. Because describing your symptoms is so important...

Continue Learning about Gout Treatment

How does Zyloprim work?
Discovery HealthDiscovery Health
Zyloprim is a brand name drug for allopurinol. Allopurinol has been the mainstay of most gout treatm...
More Answers
What kind of diet should I eat to get rid of gout?
Geraldine M. Navarro, MDGeraldine M. Navarro, MD
Gout is a form of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid in the body. Cheese, wine and meats hav...
More Answers
Ask the Experts: Gout Treatment
Ask the Experts: Gout Treatment
How Can Eating Cherries Help Gout?
How Can Eating Cherries Help Gout?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.