One of the kidneys primary functions is to filter out waste from the body and retain vitamins and minerals that are essential for our body to function properly—such nutrients include protein.
The presence of high protein in urine signifies a medical condition called Proteinuria. This condition is often linked to kidney diseases because kidneys functioning normally will not allow high levels of protein to pass through its filters. When a kidney filter is damaged, proteins like albumin spread out into the urine from the blood. Proteinuria may also be a sign of the body’s abnormal production of proteins.
Detecting early signs of kidney disease is often challenging because there are no definitive symptoms. When urine contains excess proteins it would cause the urine to form foams. However, foamy urine may also indicate other conditions like retrograde ejaculation, pneumaturia, or bilirubin. It may also be caused by certain drugs like pyridium.
The only way to know for certain is to undergo urine test during physical examinations and to identify if there are any abnormal amounts of protein. The test involves measuring the amount of albumin protein in the urine. And then, it will be compared to the creatinine in the urine. This procedure is called the UACR (urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio). A measurement of 30mg/g UACR is an indication of kidney disease. Blood tests will also be performed to evaluate kidneys overall condition.
There are various reasons why protein in urine goes up. Some causes can come from conditions that don’t necessarily indicate kidney disease. It may rather indicate a less serious cause and the increase in protein may be temporary. Examples of such conditions include:
- Dehydration: Protein excretion by the body may depend on a person’s metabolism. Protein levels in the urine may go as high as 150mg a day if a person fails to drink sufficient water daily.
- Intense physical activities: Occurrence of increased protein in urine is common to people active in sports and intense workouts. Such condition is benign and proteinuria may only last from 1 to 2 days. In any case, people with active lifestyles must drink enough water to rehydrate.
- Mental stress: Individuals under constant psychological stress may also experience proteinuria. However, it possesses no serious health risks and protein may go down by relaxing.
- Fever: Individuals with suffering from fever are more prone to dehydration. The person must drink enough water to lower excretion.
- Exposure in cold environments: When our body temperature drops, it can induce proteinuria.
- High amounts of protein in the urine may also signify a more serious medical condition. Patients undergo a urine test to measure protein in their urine called albumin. The levels of albumin in the urine determine the amount of damage in the kidneys. Excess proteins or proteinuria identified from this test is also referred to as macroalbuminuria. On the other hand, it’s referred to as microalbuminuria if the disease is at its onset.
The presence of high levels of protein in the urine may indicate one of the following medical conditions:
|Nephrotic Syndrome||Preeclampsia||Chronic Kidney Disease|
(Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis)
|Lupus||Multiple myelomas||Kidney infection|
|Malaria||Sickle Cell Anemia||Orthostatic proteinuria|
|Sarcoidosis||During pregnancy||Certain medication|
|Rheumatoid arthritis||Pyelonephritis||Heart Failure|
The abovementioned causes are based on common symptoms reported by patients. Contact your local doctor and work with them to conclusively identify your health condition.
There are no definitive symptoms that may fully identify proteinuria. It can be conclusively diagnosed during physical examinations. Listed below are the common symptoms experiencing by patients with proteinuria. It includes swelling of one or more of the following areas of the body:
- Arms and limbs
Other symptoms may include the following:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight gain
- Foam formations in the urine
The presence of excess protein in your urine can be determined through urine test or urinalysis during your routine physical examinations. The urine test may also detect other kidney diseases that are causing the high levels of protein in your urine. One particular urine test is called the Urine Albumin-to-Creatinine Ratio (UACR).
This test is to measure the amount of the albumin protein excreted in your urine in a 24-hour period without the necessity to collect samples from the patients for the entire day. A blood test will also be performed to check the health condition of the kidneys. The laboratory technicians would normally check blood sugar levels, serum creatinine, cholesterol levels, and albumin. Additional test may be necessary if your doctor suspects any signs of kidney disease and may recommend the following tests:
- GFR or the Glomerular Filtration Rate – this test will determine the amount of blood passing through the kidney filters. The normal level is around 90 to 120 mL/min. If the level goes under 60 mL/min for three or more consecutive months, it can be an indication of chronic kidney disease.
- Kidney biopsy – it involves getting a small tissue sample of the kidney to be examined under a microscope. However, a doctor’s recommendation for this test is rare and may be performed as a last resort.
- Renal ultrasound – An imaging test to determine if there are any stones, cyst, or obstruction in the kidneys.
Proteinuria is often part of a symptom of other disorders like kidney disease, heart disease, or diabetes. In treating this disorder the medical practitioner would normally focus on improving the condition. It includes regulation of the blood glucose levels of diabetic patients and/or maintaining normal blood pressure levels in people suffering from hypertension. Patients with a symptom of Nephrotic syndrome and excess fluids are advised to limit salt consumption. The medical practitioner may also advise patients to restrict protein consumption. Medications called ACE inhibitors, which is mainly used for hypertension treatment is shown in a few studies to lessen the effects of proteinuria. This is regardless of whether the individual is suffering from hypertension or not.