Understanding what it means to have protein in your urine

Dr. Praveen Namboodiri, MD, DM, Consultant Nephrologist and Transplant Physician, Bishop Benziger Hospital and NS Hospital, Kollam, Secretary, Save Kidney Foundation

BRAND CONNECT
Published: Dec 21, 2022 02:24:33 PM IST

Understanding what it means to have protein in your urine

A small amount of protein in your urine is normal, but too much can be a sign of kidney disease. Protein is normally found in your blood. The main protein in your blood is called albumin.  Proteins have many important jobs in your body. For example, they help build your bones and muscles, prevent infection and control the amount of fluid in your blood.

Protein in the Urine: Causes
Healthy kidneys remove extra fluid and waste from your blood and transform it into the urine. Healthy kidneys do not remove proteins and other important nutrients, which pass through and return to your blood. But when your kidneys are damaged, they may let this protein leak into your urine. This causes high levels of protein in your urine.  Anyone can have protein in their urine. You may be more likely to have protein in your urine if you have one or more of the risk factors for kidney disease. There are health problems that can cause long-lasting protein in the urine, and some that can cause short-term protein in the urine.

Causes of Long-lasting Protein in the Urine
Health problems that may cause long-lasting high levels of protein in the urine include:
•    Kidney disease
•    Nephrotic syndrome
•    Risk factors that give you a higher chance of having kidney disease, such as:
    –  Diabetes
    –  High blood pressure
    –  Family history of kidney disease
•    Pregnancy
•    Preeclampsia (a type of high blood pressure that happens during pregnancy)


Causes of Short-term Protein in the Urine
Health problems that may cause a short-term high level of protein in the urine include:
•    Dehydration (not having enough water in your body)
•    High stress
•    Being in very cold temperatures
•    Fever
•    High-intensity physical activity

Symptoms of Protein in the Urine
When your kidneys have only mild damage and you have only small levels of protein in your urine, you will not notice any symptoms.

When your kidneys have more severe damage and you have high levels of protein in your urine, you may start to notice symptoms such as:
•    Foamy, frothy or bubbly urine
•    Swelling in your hands, feet, belly or face
•    Urinating more often
•    Feeling sick to your stomach or throwing up
•    Muscle cramps at night

Protein in Urine: Diagnosis
The only way to know if you have protein in your urine is to have a urine test. The test will measure the levels of protein in your urine. The name of urine test that measures the level of albumin in your urine is called the urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UACR). A UACR compares the level of albumin to the level of creatinine (a waste product in your blood that comes from your muscles). A normal UACR is less than 30mg/g. If your UACR is 30 mg/g or higher, it can be a sign of kidney disease.

Treatment of Protein in the Urine
If you have temporary or mild proteinuria, you likely won’t need treatment. If you have consistent proteinuria, you’ll need to treat the underlying condition.

Treatment may include:
•    Dietary changes. If you have kidney disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure, a doctor will recommend specific diet changes.
•    Weight management. Maintaining a moderate weight may help you manage conditions that impair kidney function.
•    Blood pressure medication. If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, a doctor might prescribe medication to help lower your blood pressure. Explore the connection between high blood pressure and diabetes.
•    Diabetes medication. You may need medication or insulin therapy to help you manage high blood sugar.
•    Dialysis. In glomerulonephritis and kidney failure, dialysis is used to help manage high blood pressure and fluid imbalances.

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