Protein in the urine may be a sign of serious health problems. To reduce protein levels, you need to tackle the problem that is causing the increase. This article will cover why there may be a high level of protein in the urine, how it can be diagnosed, and what you can do about it.
The team of board-certified urologists at Urology of Greater Atlanta diagnose the cause of protein in urine and other conditions such as blood in the urine (hematuria) and provide appropriate treatment when necessary.
What Causes Protein in Urine (Proteinuria)?
Your kidneys have the job of filtering blood. The filtering takes place in small blood vessels called glomeruli. They transfer waste into the urine and reabsorb protein that stays in the blood.
If your kidneys aren’t functioning properly, the protein ends up in your urine. This causes high levels of protein in the urine, which is called proteinuria.
The different types of proteinuria are:
- Glomerular proteinuria
- Tubular proteinuria
- Overflow proteinuria
- Postrenal proteinuria
One type of glomerular proteinuria is called albuminuria. This is where the excess protein in the urine is albumin.
Proteinuria may come about because of temporary conditions such as dehydration. However, it might indicate something more serious like kidney damage.
Does Proteinuria Mean I Have Chronic Kidney Disease?
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the condition when kidney function declines. In its early stages, CKD may cause proteinuria. However, there usually aren’t any noticeable symptoms.
As kidney damage progresses, there are some symptoms that you can look out for. They include:
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent urination
- Difficulties sleeping
- Dry, itchy skin
- Swollen hands and feet
- Poor appetite
If you have certain diseases, you may be at a greater risk of damaging your kidneys which leads to CKD:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Interstitial nephritis
- Polycystic kidney disease
- Recurring kidney infection
CKD can lead to kidney failure if it’s left to progress.
Protein in Urine Diagnosis
Proteinuria is diagnosed through a urine test. The test measures the level of protein in your urine.
To do the urine test, you will need to urinate into a specimen cup. Your health care provider then places a dipstick, or a small plastic stick coated with chemicals, into the urine sample. The stick will change color if it has too much protein.
The urine will then be sent to a lab to be examined under a microscope.
If your doctor suspects kidney problems, the urine test will be repeated three times. One per month. This helps to rule out any temporary causes of proteinuria.
Further lab tests may also be used to determine what’s causing your proteinuria:
- 24-hour urine collection. Your urine will be collected over 24 hours and sent to a lab.
- Glomerular filtration rate (GMR) blood test. This test evaluates your kidney function.
- Imaging tests. An ultrasound or CT scan may be used to take detailed photos of your kidneys and urinary tract.
- Kidney biopsy. A sample of your kidney is removed and examined for signs of kidney damage.
Protein in Urine Treatment
You will probably not need treatment if you have temporary or mild proteinuria. But if you have proteinuria that lasts a long time, then you’ll need to treat the underlying condition.
Possible treatment includes:
- Changes to your diet. If high levels of protein are caused by kidney disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure, your doctor will give you specific diet changes.
- Weight loss. Some conditions that impair kidney function can be managed by losing weight.
- Blood pressure medication. If you have hypertension, lowering your blood pressure may help treat proteinuria.
- Diabetes medication. You may need medication or insulin therapy to control high blood sugar levels.
- Dialysis. If you suffer from glomerulonephritis and kidney failure, dialysis is used to manage high blood pressure and fluids.
The team of board-certified urologists at Urology of Greater Atlanta offer state-of-the-art diagnostics and innovative treatments for many different conditions such as finding blood in the urine.
In that case, your doctor might suggest a cystoscopy, in which a tiny camera is inserted into the urethra to pinpoint exactly where the blood is entering the stream. Or if an infection is found, they may prescribe antibiotics to treat it.
If you have concerns about your urine, don’t delay — call Urology of Greater Atlanta today or book an appointment online for expert care. Their offices are found throughout Greater Atlanta, including Stockbridge, GA.