High levels of protein in urine could be an indication of some serious medical condition. Read on to know more about the symptoms of this condition.
Proteins are organic compounds, which are essential for the human body to carry out the vital physiologic functions. In fact, around sixteen per cent of the total body weight comes from proteins. Some of the body parts like hair, skin, nails, muscles and connective tissues are made up of proteins. These compounds are also present in the blood and are associated with functions like blood clotting, fighting infections and regulating fluid circulation in the body. In healthy people, blood passes through the kidneys, which remove the waste products from the blood. However, the kidneys spare proteins and other substances, which are needed by the body. Otherwise too, most of the proteins are too big to get filtered into the urine. In some cases, the proteins in the blood may leak into the urine due to various reasons. Such a condition is called proteinuria or albuminuria.
Protein in Urine – Causes
While presence of traces of protein in urine is not a worrisome condition, high levels can be indications of some problems with the kidneys. Though, different types of proteins can be found in the urine, it is the levels of albumin that is mainly taken into account, for diagnosing kidney diseases. This condition is usually detected through urinalysis. Apart from kidney diseases, various other diseases and disorders can cause the condition. Go through the following table to know more about the causes of proteinuria.
- Polycystic Kidney Disease
- Pyelonephritis, Kidney Cancer
- Urinary Tract Infection
- Kidney Damage due to Heavy Metal Ingestion
- Reflux Nephropathy
- Alport Syndrome, Aminoaciduria
- Interstitial Nephritis
- Fanconi’s Syndrome
- Minimal Change Disease
Other Diseases / Disorders
- Diabetes, Vasculitis, Sarcoidosis
- Rheumatoid Arthritis, Amyloidosis
- Hypertension, Certain Types of Cancer
- Congestive Cardiac Failure
- Eclampsia, Hemoglobinuria
- Fabry Disease, Sickle Cell Disease
- Multiple Myeloma, Myoglobinuria
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
- Organ Rejection in Kidney Transplant Patients
- Henoch Schonlein Purpura
- Use of Drugs like NSAIDs and Antibiotics.
- Strenuous Exercise/Physical Activities
- Stress (Emotional and/or Physical)
- High Fever
- Exposure to Cold
- Heat Injury
- Heroin Abuse
- Use of Chemotherapy Drugs
- Exposure to Toxins
Symptoms of Proteinuria
It is very difficult to understand protein in urine symptoms, especially during the early stages. However, as the condition aggravates, the affected person may experience some symptoms. Some of them could be life-threatening too.
Urine may become foamy/frothy and the person may develop poor appetite
Swelling of the face (mainly around the eyes), hands, abdomen and feet
Fatigue and weight gain (due to water retention)
Water retention around the lungs may cause breathing difficulty
Severe proteinuria may cause life-threatening symptoms like chest pain/pressure
Other severe symptoms include confusion, loss of consciousness and inability to urinate
The most common method for detecting the condition is to conduct a urine test. It is due to this reason that doctors recommend regular urine tests for those who are at the risk of developing this condition. Presence of protein in urine can be detected with simple dipstick tests, but these tests cannot measure the exact amount of protein. So, sensitive lab tests are preferable. More than 150 milligrams of protein is considered abnormal and the condition is termed proteinuria.
Proteinuria is classified into three types – transient, orthostatic and persistent.
While those with transient proteinuria experience the condition intermittently, it will be recurrent or continuous in those with persistent type. Usually, persistent proteinuria is seen in people with underlying kidney diseases and medical conditions that affect the functioning of the kidneys. Orthostatic or postural proteinuria is seen in people, whose kidneys filter more protein into the urine, during sitting or standing position and normal amounts while lying down. While transient and orthostatic proteinuria are not harmful, persistent ones need immediate medical attention, to avoid complications like kidney diseases and renal failure.
Treatment for proteinuria depends on the underlying cause. Specific tests are conducted to find out the exact cause for this condition and the treatment is decided accordingly. As mentioned above, dipstick tests are only for detecting the presence of protein in urine. If the test comes positive, other advanced tests like Urine Protein-Creatinine Ratio (PCR) test, Urine Albumin-to-Creatinine Ratio (UACR) test, eGFR (estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate) test, ultrasound scan of the kidneys and X-rays, may be required. Several blood tests and blood pressure monitoring may also be done. Even kidney biopsy may be needed in some patients. The mode of treatment is decided as per the underlying cause and the severity of the condition.
If you are experiencing the above said protein in urine symptoms, you have to seek medical attention to diagnose the condition. In case of people, who are in the high-risk group, like, those who suffer from diabetes and hypertension, routine urine test can prove beneficial to monitor the levels of protein in urine. Even if the levels are low, seek the opinion of a doctor, in order to rule out any underlying causes. In case you have blood and protein in the urine, then, contact your doctor as early as possible.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.