Proteinuria (protein in urine) causes, complications, and symptoms

By: Mohan Garikiparithi | Kidney Health | Wednesday, August 31, 2016 - 02:30 PM

proteinuria protein in urineProteinuria, the presence of excessive protein in urine, can be an early sign of kidney disease. Healthy kidneys do not allow a significant amount of protein to exit the body through urine. But kidney damage can impact the filtering system, letting too much protein leak into the urine as a result.

Kidney disease in general does not have many early warning signs. So if your urine test results have revealed protein in your urine, you may want to go for a follow-up to ensure proper kidney function.

For younger people, protein in the urine isn’t that uncommon. It often results from exercising or an illness. In either case, going for a follow-up is very important to make sure you don’t overlook any serious condition.

Causes and risk factors for protein in urine

Common causes for protein in the urine include:

  • Exposure to the cold
  • Emotional stress
  • Fever
  • Exposure to heat
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Amyloidosis
  • Certain drugs
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammation of the kidneys
  • Heart disease, heart failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Kidney infection
  • Leukemia
  • Lupus
  • Malaria
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Orthostatic proteinuria
  • Pericarditis
  • Preeclampsia
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Pregnancy
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Sickle cell anemia

Risk factors for proteinuria include having any of the above mentioned conditions, being over the age of 65, having a family history of kidney disease, being African American, Native American, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander, and taking certain medications.

Symptoms and complications of protein in urine

Kidney disease related to brain disordersProteinuria often does not present any symptoms, so it can go undetected unless you undergo a physical exam and get your urine sample checked. If protein excretion is high, urine will appear foamy. You may also experience other symptoms related to the underlying condition that is causing proteinuria.

Proteinuria complications depend on the underlying cause of the condition. Generally, protein in urine is associated with kidney disease, so kidney function may begin to decline over time. You may also experience high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which can further damaged the kidneys if not managed properly.

Tests for protein in urine

Initial testing for protein in urine is through urinalysis. This is a simple test that won’t tell how much protein there is in the urine, but rather that there is a highly detectable amount. Once that’s detected, your doctor may have you collect a 24-hour urine sample for further analysis to measure how much protein is actually released throughout the day.

If protein readings are less than 3 mg/mmol, no further testing is required. If readings are between three and 30 mg/mmol, an annual check-up will be requested. Lastly, any reading over 30 mg/mmol suggests significant leakage of protein, and further testing will be conducted to evaluate your kidney health or check for any other possible cause of proteinuria. At this stage, treatment will also be prescribed.

If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, and proteinuria, it is highly important that you properly manage these conditions as they can contribute to worsened kidney health. Proper management can help slow down the progression of any impending kidney disease.

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