To measure the amount of protein in urine, a random sample and/or a 24-hour urine sample is used. The test that helps measure the protein content of urine is known as dipstick test. Presence of a protein like albumin in urine mainly indicates kidney problem. This condition is known as 'proteinuria' or 'albuminuria' or 'urine albumin'. Albumin is actually abundantly present in blood. Proteins, the building blocks of the body are necessary to strengthen the cellular function, muscles, bones, hair and nails. Proteins strengthen the immune system and help keep away diseases. Losing protein through urine can lead to several health complications.
Normal Urine Protein Levels
- The normal range of protein for a random urine sample: 0 to 8 mg/dL
- The normal value of protein for a 24-hour urine collection: Less than 150 mg per 24 hours.
Normally, when a healthy person undergoes a routine dipstick test, it does not show any protein. We all know that our kidneys work as filtration plants. Kidneys help separate the waste material from the blood and fluid. Kidneys are part of the excretory system and they play a vital role in producing urine by filtering the waste products. Protein molecules are relatively larger and they cannot pass through minute glomeruli or filters of the kidneys. Thus kidneys keep protein in blood as it is necessary for the body.
Small amounts of protein that get through the glomeruli are normally reabsorbed by the body and used to generate energy. Protein in urine with normal or low blood protein levels indicates dysfunction of kidneys. Sometimes, in case of very high blood protein levels, protein may be present in the urine despite normal functioning of the kidneys. So along with protein urine, protein in blood is also measured.
Causes of High Protein in Urine
Elevated protein levels in urine mainly indicate kidney infection or kidney disease which affects glomeruli function. Other causes of this disorder are:
- Pyelonephritis, bacterial infection in kidneys leading to inflammation of the nephrons in the kidneys
- Glomerulonephritis, infection of the glomerulus of the nephron
- Uncontrolled diabetes type 1 and type 2
- Hypertension or high blood pressure leading to not only protein but also blood in urine
- Pre-eclampsia during pregnancy (hypertension and fluid retention)
- Urinary tract infection
- Amyloidosis, deposit of amyloid in organs or tissues
- Bladder tumor
- Congestive heart failure
- Dehydration, insufficient intake of water and fluids
- Diabetic nephropathy
- Goodpasture syndrome, rapidly progressive kidney failure along with lung disease
- Heavy metal poisoning
- Lupus erythematosus
- Malignant hypertension
- Multiple myeloma
- Nephrotic syndrome
- Use of certain medicines (nephrotoxic drugs) that can cause damage to the kidneys
- Polycystic kidney disease
Proteinuria generally does not exhibit any symptoms. Routine urine and blood tests help detect this condition. One should keep in mind that dehydration, excessive emotional stress, intake of certain drugs, strenuous exercise, urinary tract infection or contaminated urine (with vaginal secretions) can affect the urine test results.
How to Lower Protein Levels in Urine
The doctor determines the course of treatment after knowing the exact cause of excess protein in urine. If you have hypertension or diabetes, you should take proper precautions to maintain normal blood sugar levels and normal blood pressure levels. Balanced diet and regular exercise play an important role in stabilizing blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
To fight kidney or urinary tract infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. You should follow the instructions of the doctor religiously. Prompt medication, fruitful change in the lifestyle (stress-free lifestyle, exercise, engaging yourself in your favorite activities, avoiding alcohol, drugs, smoking, excessive caffeine, etc.) can help improve kidney function. Restricting dietary salt and protein helps lower the levels of protein in urine.
Excessive loss of protein through urine indicates kidney diseases and if not controlled promptly, may lead to life-threatening conditions. One should not hesitate for regular checkups as they help detect a health problem at an early stage.