Why Your Doctor May Test for High Protein in Urine (Proteinuria)

Proteinuria, or protein in the urine, occurs when your kidneys aren’t functioning normally, allowing protein to leave your body through your urine. Kidneys with normal function filter toxins out of the blood, while keeping nutrients like protein circulating. Having too much protein in your urine can mean that your kidneys are filtering too much protein out of your blood—protein that your body needs to build muscles and maintain strong bones.

What else causes protein in urine?

Proteinuria causes are linked to other conditions. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two leading causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD), and kidney damage from those two conditions can result in proteinuria. Lupus, arthritis and other immune system disorders can also cause proteinuria. Protein in the urine can even be a warning sign of pre-eclampsia during pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of proteinuria?

Most often, protein in urine won’t be noticeable until a lab test confirms it. And since so many things can cause protein in your urine, a positive test isn’t an immediate cause for concern. If your doctor sees the need, you may be asked to take another urine test or even participate in a 24-hour urine collection for further testing.

In some cases, proteinuria symptoms may be noticeable:

  • In extreme cases, your urine may appear bubbly, foamy, or frothy.
  • You may also experience swelling in your face, abdomen, hands or feet. 

If you notice proteinuria symptoms, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.


KNOW WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Proteinuria may be an early warning sign that something is wrong with your kidneys. Seeking treatment as soon as possible is important to prevent further damage to your kidneys or the progression of CKD.

How is proteinuria treated?

Since protein in urine is not a problem itself, your treatment will depend on the root cause.
If you have diabetes: you can help manage proteinuria by maintaining a healthy blood sugar, taking medications as directed, eating a healthy diet and getting exercise. Controlling your diabetes can also help protect your kidneys. You may want to ask your doctor about new medications that have been shown to reduce proteinuria and kidney dysfunction in people living with diabetes.
If you have high blood pressure: you may be prescribed medications like ACE inhibitors or ARBs. These medications can lower your blood pressure and help protect your kidneys from further damage.
If examination of your proteinuria leads to a diagnosis of CKD: there are ways to manage the condition. Progression of chronic kidney disease may be slowed with a treatment plan that includes diet and medications. At kidney failure, which is stage 5 CKD, you can live a full life with treatment options including transplant or dialysis.
If you’re currently being treated for chronic kidney disease: protein in urine may be a sign that you need adjustments to your treatment plan. You can learn more about the 5 stages of CKD.

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