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Protein in Urine (Proteinuria)

Protein in your urine may be an early sign of kidney disease.

What is protienuria?

Proteinuria (pro-teen-yur-EE-uh) means protein in your urine (pee).  Your kidneys make urine by cleaning extra fluid from your blood.  Your kidneys also help prevent the loss of things that your body needs, like protein.  Proteinuria happens when your kidneys let protein leak into your urine.  Protein in your urine may also be called albuminuria or microalbuminuria.

Why does it matter if I have proteinuria?

A very tiny amount of protein in your urine may be common from time to time, but a larger amount of protein in your urine may be an early sign of kidney disease.

If proteinuria is not controlled, the increased amount of protein in your urine can lead to more kidney damage.  Over time, this can cause your kidneys to fail, and you may need dialysis or a kidney transplant.

If you find and treat the problem that is causing your proteinuria, you may be able to stop or slow down the damage.

What are the symptoms of proteinuria?

You are not able to see protein in your urine.  The only way to know if you have proteinuria is to have your urine tested.  Most people do not notice any symptoms.  If you do have symptoms, they might include foamy urine or swelling in your hands, feet or face. 

How do I know if I have proteinuria?

Being tested for proteinuria is simple.  There are two main tests:

  • A dipstick urine test tells your doctor if there is protein in your urine. 
    • Your doctor may test your urine in the office or ask that you bring in a sample from home.
    • If your first dipstick urine test shows protein in your urine, ask your doctor if you should be tested again.  Also ask your doctor if a Urine Albumin-to-Creatinine Ratio (UACR) test is right for you.
  • A UACR test tells your doctor how much albumin is in your urine. 
    • Your doctor will test your urine for albumin (a type of protein) and creatinine (a kind of waste).  Your doctor will compare these results to figure out your UACR.
    • A normal UACR is less than 30mg/g¹.  If your UACR is more than 30 mg/g, ask your doctor when you should be tested again.

Learn more about urine tests here

What are the treatments for proteinuria?

If your tests show that you have proteinuria, work with your doctor to treat it.  Remember, if the cause of your proteinuria is not treated, your kidneys may be damaged further.  Treating protienuria is one way to keep your kidneys as healthy as possible.

Ask your doctor if you should:

  • Have other tests to check your kidneys
    • The eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate) test or a 24-hour urine test can tell your doctor more about how your kidneys are working.
  • Take medicines to help protect your kidneys
    • Some blood pressure medicines, like ACE inhibitors and ARBs, may help protect your kidneys.  Your doctor may prescribe one of these medicines even if you don’t have high blood pressure.
  • Take steps to control high blood pressure and diabetes if you have them
    • Limiting salt and fat in your diet and getting exercise most days of the week can help.
  • See a nephrologist (kidney specialist)

Learn more about an eGFR blood test here

Download a fact sheet about protein in your urine.

Read about other symptoms of kidney disease.

Learn about the simple tests that can tell you if your kidneys are working properly.

Download our free Kidney Health Tracker to keep track of your test results.

¹National Kidney Disease Education Program. (June 2010).  Quick Reference on UACR and GFR.  Retrieved from http://www.nkdep.nih.gov/resources/uacr_gfr_quickreference.htm.

Revised 8/12.

 

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