Our kidneys perform the vital function of retaining important nutrients and substances, and filtering out excess water and wastes, which is flushed out of the body in the form of urine. The kidneys filter about 120 to 150 quarts of blood daily to produce about 1 to 2 quarts of urine. Proteinuria refers to the presence of abnormal amounts of protein in urine. Under normal circumstances, proteins present in the blood are retained by the kidneys, as these are essential for the healthy functioning of the human body. Proteins are usually too big to pass through the glomerulus, which refers to a tubular structure that filters blood to form urine. If glomeruli get damaged, the proteins from the blood could leak into the urine, thereby leading to proteinuria. The presence of protein in urine is generally indicative of a kidney infection or disease. Thus, the underlying kidney infection or disease has to be treated for resolving the problem of proteinuria.
Contributing Factors for Proteinuria
- Polycystic kidney disease is an inherited disorder that is characterized by the formation of fluid-filled cysts within the kidneys. This condition can also put one at a risk of developing hypertension. It can also lead to kidney failure, which in turn might make one susceptible to proteinuria. Also, pyelonephritis (kidney infection) or urinary tract infections could also be contributing factors.
- Diabetes is a medical condition that is characterized by high blood sugar levels. Consistently high levels of blood sugar can put stress on the filtering units within the kidneys. If these filtering units get damaged, kidneys might not be able to perform the task of filtration properly. At times, protein molecules might leak from the damaged filters into the urine.
- Hypertension or high blood pressure is one of the common causes of kidney failure. When the pressure exerted by blood on the blood vessels is too high, it might stretch, scar, or weaken the blood vessels in the kidneys. This would have an adverse effect on the kidney function.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Frothy or foamy urine and edema could be indicative of proteinuria. Thus, it's advisable to consult a doctor, if these signs are observed. The presence of protein in the urine can be confirmed by a dipstick urine test. Also, another test called Urine Albumin-to-Creatinine Ratio (UACR) might be conducted to check for the amount of albumin (one of the main proteins found in the blood plasma) present in the urine. Under normal circumstances, UACR is less than 30mg/g. In some cases, eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate) test or a 24-hour urine test might have to be conducted to check the kidney function.
Once the underlying cause is identified with the help of these diagnostic tests, suitable treatment options can be recommended. Drugs can help treat a kidney infection or disease. Since high blood pressure and diabetes are risk factors for kidney problems, it's advisable to monitor one's blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
Diabetics should make the necessary changes to their diet. Also, following an exercise regimen will also help. Those who are affected by hypertension must consult their healthcare provider regarding drug therapy. ACE inhibitors and ARBs are drugs that help keep lower blood pressure. Also, limiting the intake of salt would help.
It's advisable to monitor the levels of albumin at regular intervals to find out if the kidneys are working properly or not. Once the underlying cause of proteinuria is treated, the protein levels would come back to normal.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.