What Is Allopurinol Used For?
Allopurinol is primarily used for preventing high uric acid levels. By inhibiting the effects of a certain enzyme, the medicine can help prevent gout attacks, high uric acid levels caused by cancer treatment, and kidney stones in people with high uric acid levels. Occasionally, a healthcare provider may recommend this medication for other uses. These off-label allopurinol uses include treating mouth sores caused by chemotherapy, prostatitis, and leishmaniasis.
- Gout attacks
- High uric acid levels due to cancer treatment
- Recurrent kidney stones in people with high uric acid levels.
Gout is one of the most painful forms of arthritis. It is partly caused by high uric acid levels (see Causes of Gout). Uric acid is a substance that results from the breakdown of purines, which are part of all human tissue and are found in many foods. Normally, uric acid is dissolved in the blood and passed through the kidneys into the urine, where it is eliminated from the body. If the body increases its production of uric acid, or if the kidneys do not eliminate enough from the body, increased levels of uric acid build up in the blood.
Excess uric acid can form crystals in joints or other parts of the body. These crystals can lead to inflammation, causing painful gout symptoms. This increased level of uric acid in the blood can also lead to:
- Deposits of uric acid (called tophi) that look like lumps under the skin around the joints and at the rim of the ear
- Kidney stones from uric acid crystals in the kidneys.
Allopurinol is approved for treating gout. It works well for preventing gout attacks, although it is not very effective for treating a gout attack that is already occurring (in fact, it can temporarily worsen gout, especially at first). For these reasons, allopurinol is usually used along with other gout medications, especially when first starting allopurinol. There is no cure for gout, and medications may be more effective when combined with additional measures, such as a gout diet.