Proteins have often been referred to as the building blocks of the body. Our body needs various types of proteins to maintain optimal health. Albumin and immunoglobulin are both proteins that play an integral role in the coagulation of blood and maintenance of body fluids. These also help in fighting off infections. Though it is not unusual to have traces of proteins in urine, a person diagnosed with abnormal amounts of protein in urine needs immediate medical attention.
Persistently high levels of albumin in urine are indicative of a pathological condition called albuminuria. In general, the presence of excessive amounts of serum proteins in urine is medically referred to as proteinuria. Under normal circumstances, the large-sized proteins cannot pass through glomeruli. Glomeruli are the intertwined clusters of capillaries in kidneys. These act as filtering screens for blood. Healthy kidneys retain the proteins and remove only the wastes from protein-rich blood. Larger amounts of protein in a urine sample is basically indicative of malfunctioning kidneys. If urine contains large amounts of this protein, there's a greater likelihood of one developing a kidney disorder in future.
It is usually difficult to detect the symptoms of albuminuria in the initial stages. However, one may experience certain symptoms in event of leakage of large amounts of this protein into the urine. Foamy urine is one of the most common symptoms. This condition may manifest in the form of edema. Low energy levels or fatigue may also be experienced by the patient. If kidney function deteriorates, one could even gain weight. Women suffering from this condition during pregnancy may become susceptible to premature delivery.
Ideally this protein should not be present in urine, but when the kidneys are not working properly, it might pass through the glomeruli and find its way into the urine. High levels are indicative of damaged or defective glomeruli in one's kidneys. Thus, determining the levels of this protein in the urine can help in diagnosing whether an individual is suffering from any renal disease or not. Generally people suffering from type 1 diabetes are at an increased risk of developing this condition. Other conditions that may have an adverse effect on the kidney function include hypertension, liver cirrhosis, heart failure or systemic lupus erythematosus.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The level of protein in urine can be monitored with the help of diagnostic tests. A routine dipstick test can be performed to see if the big protein molecules are retained in the blood, while the kidneys filter out just the smaller impurities. Sometimes proteins can appear in the urine due to high levels of protein in blood which is why doctors may check protein levels in blood as well. In case of pregnant women, elevated levels in the urine may be a sign of blood vessel problems, which may consequently hamper the fetal growth and trigger a premature delivery. Thus, urine tests must be conducted at regular intervals to check the levels of protein during pregnancy.
Doctors usually order the microalbumin urine test when they suspect deterioration of kidney function. Testing the urine sample for this protein and checking the albumin creatinine ratio can help them assess the condition of the patient's kidneys to a great extent. In case of a healthy individual, the level of urinary albumin in a random urine sample must lie within the range of 0 to 8 mg/dl. If the urine sample has been collected over a period of 24 hours, the level of this protein must not go beyond 150 mg. If the levels go beyond the normal range, it is indicative of malfunctioning kidneys. If the kidney is damaged, the levels of this protein in urine will be high even if the blood levels are normal.
How can the levels of this protein be brought down? Well, treating the underlying cause would certainly prove beneficial. If a person is suffering from diabetes or hypertension, drug therapy should be administered to keep the blood glucose level or the blood pressure under control. Those who are suffering from these medical conditions may need angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) to protect kidney function. Doctors might also prescribe certain diuretics in order to get rid of the excess fluids from the body.
Kidney malfunction is bound to have an adverse effect on the bodily processes that are vital to the overall healthy functioning of the body. Since albuminuria is a sign of kidney problems, monitoring the levels of this protein can help in timely diagnosis and treatment of kidney disorders. Needless to say, a timely diagnosis and medical treatment coupled with lifestyle-related changes can arrest the progression of renal disease and help to avert the fatal repercussions of kidney dysfunction.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.