Protein in Urine (Proteinuria)

The protein in urine test is the only way to know if you have protein in your urine.  If you have proteinuria and high amounts of protein in your urine, it may signify kidney disease.  Learn about your health today! Order your labs today from Ulta Lab Tests and get your results confidentially online.


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Decreased levels of ceruloplasmin are found in Wilson''s Disease, fulminant liver failure, intestinal malabsorption, renal failure resulting in proteinuria, chronic active hepatitis and malnutrition. Elevated levels are found in primary biliary cirrhosis, pregnancy (first trimester), oral contraceptive use and in acute inflammatory conditions since ceruloplasmin is an acute phase reactant

Diabetic nephropathy is a complication of diabetes and is characterized by proteinuria. Before overt proteinuria develops, albumin excretion increases in those diabetic patients who are destined to develop diabetic nephropathy. There is a need to identify small, but abnormal, increases in the excretion of urinary albumin (in the range of 30-300 mg/day, ie, microalbuminuria). The National Kidney Foundation guidelines for the management of patients with diabetes and microalbuminuria recommend that all type 1 diabetic patients older than 12 years and all type 2 diabetic patients younger than 70 years have their urine tested for microalbuminuria yearly when they are under stable glucose control.

The determination of proteinuria is a well established laboratory procedure for the evaluation of renal disease (glomerular, tubular and overflow proteinuria), urinary tract inflammation, orthostatic proteinuria and preeclampsia (a potential complication of pregnancy). A more rapid clinical assessment of proteinuria using a 12-hour specimen enables a faster diagnosis with subsequent intervention in several of the clinical conditions cited above.

Proteinuria, mainly glomerular, is often a manifestation of primary renal disease although transient proteinuria may occur with fevers, thyroid disorders, and in heart disease. In the absence of renal disease, the degree of proteinuria is slight, usually amounting to less than 2 grams per day. In chronic glomerulonephritis and in the nephrotic syndrome including lipoid nephrosis and in some forms of hypertensive vascular disease, protein loss may vary from a few grams to as much as 30 g/day.

Proteinuria is characteristic of renal disease and concentrations may be increased with diabetes, hypertension, nephritic syndrome, and drug nephrotoxicity.

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Dipstick urinalysis is important in accessing the chemical constituents in the urine and the relationship to various disease states. Microscopic examination helps to detect the presence of cells and other formed elements.


Proteinuria is characteristic of renal disease and concentrations may be increased with diabetes, hypertension, nephritic syndrome, and drug nephrotoxicity.


What is Protein in the Urine (Proteinuria)?

Healthy urine doesn't usually contain anything more than a trace of protein - the kidneys filter it out as part of the way in which urine is made. Usually, protein is too large a molecule to pass through the capillary walls into the kidney filtration system. If protein is present in the urine, it can be indicative of a range of health problems, many relating to the kidney.

About Protein in the Urine (Proteinuria)

Protein in the urine may be due to a large excess of circulating protein or compromised kidney activity. For example, suppose the filtration system isn't working correctly. In that case, smaller proteins may pass from the blood capillaries into the kidney tubules and not be fully reabsorbed back into the body.

Protein in the urine isn't dangerous in itself but is often a symptom of some other problem in the body. If you test positive with a lab test for protein in the urine, it's important to consult with your medical provider so that the cause can be diagnosed and an appropriate treatment regime commenced. 

Note that in many cases, above-average protein levels in the urine may be due to a benign, easily remedied cause such as dehydration or an infection. 

Risk Factors for Protein in the Urine (Proteinuria)

Common risk factors that make protein in the urine more likely include:

  • Untreated high blood pressure.
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Reduced water intake in the past 24-hours
  • Hypothermia
  • Inflammation and/or an infection
  • Infections
  • Pre-eclampsia (a serious condition affecting pregnant women that's associated with a rapid rise in blood pressure).
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • An immune system disorder
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Occasionally, cancer of the kidney may cause a high level of protein.
  • Native Americans and people from minority ethnic groups are disproportionately more at risk of protein in the urine.

Some people may develop protein in their urine without necessarily having any of the above risk factors.

Causes of Protein in the Urine (Proteinuria)

Some of the commonest causes of protein in the urine include:

  • A higher than usual pressure gradient between the blood capillaries and the glomerulus, resulting in larger proteins being pushed through the capillary wall into the kidney.
  • A higher concentration than usual of protein in the blood.
  • Ineffective kidney action resulting in protein not being reabsorbed as the urine progresses through the kidney.

These physiological changes may be temporary or permanent. In many cases, prompt diagnosis and treatment can resolve the issue, causing protein levels to return to normal.

Signs and Symptoms of Protein in the Urine (Proteinuria)

On its own, protein in the urine usually doesn't display any symptoms - without a suitable lab test, individuals may be unaware that they have albumin in their urine or some other form of protein. Frequently, however, especially if proteinuria is severe, it is accompanied by symptoms of other conditions. Sufferers may display symptoms such as:

  • Swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite
  • An increased need to urinate
  • Breathlessness
  • Frothing or foaming urine
  • Nocturnal muscle cramping

The National Kidney Institute notes that early detection of protein in the urine significantly increases the success rate of treatment. The non-invasive, straightforward nature of the proteinuria lab test means there's no reason not to get your protein levels tested on a regular basis.

Lab Tests for Protein in the Urine (Proteinuria)

The most common test for too much protein in the urine is a simple Urinalysis lab test using a urine sample. The urine test delivers fast results, usually within just a day or two of being submitted.

If you have a urine test for protein and it comes back positive, you may need additional tests to establish the cause of the problem. The lab tests that healthcare providers typically will evaluate along with the Urinalysis include both the Complete Blood Count (CBC) and the Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP) that measure :

  • A full blood count
  • A blood sugar test, or fasting glucose test
  • ACR (albumin to creatinine ratio)
  • GFR (glomerular filtration rate)

FAQs About Protein in the Urine (Proteinuria)

If I have albumin in the urine, is something seriously wrong with me?

Not necessarily. In most cases, protein in the urine is due to a treatable condition.

What does it mean if I have protein in my urine?

Protein in the urine can be due to all sorts of reasons. If you have a pre-existing condition that puts you at risk of proteinuria, it may be that your current management of it needs adjusting. In people without pre-existing conditions, proteinuria may be down to something as simple as over-exercising and/or not drinking enough. In most cases, the cause of proteinuria is benign and easily treated.

FAQs About Lab Testing for Protein in the Urine (Proteinuria)

When should I get a test for albumin in the urine?

If your care provider suggests getting a test, then it makes sense to get one done as soon as possible. In addition, even if your care provider hasn't mentioned a urine test, if you are at all concerned, it may be worth getting one done, just to see what's going on with your urine.

Why Should I get my Urine Test for Protein Completed at Ulta Lab Tests?

Ulta Lab Tests offers accurate, reliable testing, giving you the information you need to make informed decisions about your health. Results are provided promptly, securely, and confidentially.

Does Your Lab Testing for Protein in the Urine Offer Good Value?

In most cases, testing with Ulta Labs Tests is cheaper than getting the test completed through your primary care provider. This is because we keep our overheads to a minimum, passing the savings that we make on to our customers.

Don't wait any longer. Take a moment to order your Urine Analysis test for protein today. You can take the test quickly at an approved testing facility in your local area. 

Most tests will have results available within the next 1 to 2 business days.

Proteinuria is a medical condition generally described as protein amounts in a person’s urine at higher levels than normal. It’s a condition sometimes witnessed in healthy people, but it’s more often related to abnormalities or various diseases.

Plasma, which is the liquid component of blood, has a variety of different proteins. The human kidneys serve many roles, and one of them is the conservation of the plasma protein, so it doesn’t get eliminated with actual waste products during the creation of urine. There are primarily two different ways the human body typically keeps protein from escaping into a person’s urine:

  • First, the glomeruli offer a barrier that just physically keeps most bigger plasma proteins within the blood vessels.
  • Second, the tubules reabsorb nearly all the smaller proteins which do get through.

Proteinuria happens most often when there is damage to the glomeruli or tubules inside the kidneys. Scarring and/or inflammation of the glomeruli may result in larger volumes of protein leaking into the urine, and possibly even red blood cells, or RBCs. Tubule damage can also mean proteins don’t get absorbed back in. This condition might also occur if there isn’t a lot of protein within the blood to start with, and the kidney tubules aren’t able to absorb it all back in.

Healthy individuals can be afflicted with proteinuria in both temporary and persistent forms. This condition might also be related to cold exposure, aspirin therapy, fever, exercise, and stress. Some individuals release more of their protein through urine when they’re standing up as compared to lying down; this specific condition is known as orthostatic proteinuria, but it’s rarely seen in those past the age of 30. On the other hand, when there is a detectable protein level in someone’s urine, it typically highlights the possibility of an underlying condition or disease. Further analysis is typically warranted to ascertain the specific cause.

The most frequent reason for protein levels in a person’s urine is due to kidney damage, which can be the result of:

Diabetes: Proteinuria is often an early sign of kidney function deterioration in those with either type 1 or 2 diabetes.

Hypertension: Proteinuria can also be an early warning signal of deteriorating kidney function in an individual diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Other reasons for kidney damage that lead to proteinuria include but are not limited to the following:

  • Congestive heart failure, or CHF
  • Toxin exposure
  • Infections
  • Trauma
  • Immune disorders like IgA nephropahty, lupus, or Goodpasture’s syndrome, among others
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Other conditions that might result in a case of proteinuria include the following:
  • Intravascular Hemolysis: This is the destruction of red blood cells and the release of hemoglobin within the bloodstream.
  • Pre-Eclampsia: Pregnant and expecting women get screened or tested regularly by physicians, given the presence of proteinuria is related to toxemia of pregnancy or pre-eclampsia. This disorder is specific to pregnancy, and it’s usually when hypertension and proteinuria wind up developing simultaneously. Symptoms might include headaches, nausea, and swelling or edema during pregnancy. In rare cases, it can even cause serious symptoms, like seizures. Pre-eclampsia is potentially hazardous for both mother and child.
  • Multiple Myeloma: This is also known as a cancer of a person’s plasma cells. When proteinuria happens because of Bence-Jones proteins, or excess blood protein overflowing into a person’s urine, then they might have multiple myeloma. Bence-Jones proteins have atypical immunoglobulin light chains, designated as either lambda or kappa, which monoclonal plasma cells produce. Every immunoglobulin has four protein chains; two of them are light chains, and the other two are heavy chains. Bence-Jones protein has a pair of immunoglobulin light chains, and the presence of it in a person’s urine can be a diagnostic indicator of multiple myeloma, when in the proper context of certain other symptoms also manifesting.

Symptoms and Signs

Lab testing is currently the only surefire method of accurately determining the presence of protein in a patient’s urine. Many health organizations even suggest that individuals at risk for contracting chronic kidney disease get urine testing done routinely. Proteinuria often involves no symptoms, particularly in mild situations. High levels of protein in a person’s urine might create a foamy appearance. If the blood loses a lot of protein, it can impact how capable a body is at regulating fluids. This can result in edema, which is the swelling of a patient’s abdomen, feet, hands, and face. When symptoms do show up, they’re typically related to a specific disease or condition, which results in proteinuria.

Testing

Testing specifically for proteinuria covers several goals. These include the evaluation of kidney functions, condition detection, screening at-risk individuals, ascertaining underlying causes, and analyzing the kinds and quantities of proteins that are getting released. When proteinuria is officially detected, then the patient will go through regular monitoring to watch out for the condition resolving or deteriorating. Proteinuria testing involves both blood and urine tests.

Laboratory Tests

Screening for urine protein can be part of a regular doctor’s appointment, or also as part of checking up on any patient known to be diagnosed with a condition that might trigger proteinuria. Some of the potential screening tests can include the following:

Urine Protein: This should detect the presence of all sorts of proteins that might be in a person’s urine. This can be a standalone test using a random sample of urine or part of a broader urinalysis.

Urinalysis: This evaluates a urine sample for multiple substances that might be present in a person’s urine, which includes proteins. This test is sometimes used as a component of a broader health exam.

Microalbumin/Urine Albumin: This is a sensitive test useful for monitoring diabetes patients for smaller volumes of albumin in their urine. Albumin is the primary blood protein, and diabetes can impact kidney function over time. That makes this test an early warning sign that kidney damage is happening because of diabetes. The American Diabetics Association suggests that those already diagnosed as being type 2 diabetic get annual screenings for low albumin levels in their urine. They also recommend that type 1 diabetes patients get their first test within five years of diagnosis, followed by annual testing after that.

A screening test that yields a positive result might involve follow-up urine testing to establish what kinds of protein are getting lost through urine, as well as what volumes:

Urine Albumin 24-Hours: This test measures how much albumin is being lost through urine over a period of 24 hours. This test can provide a healthcare practitioner with a good idea of how much kidney damage is happening.

Urine Albumin/Creatinine Ratio: This test can use a random urine sample instead of gathering up all urine for a full day. Creatinine is an additional measurement in this scenario. Creatinine is released into a person’s urine at a normally steady rate of flow. When a random sample is analyzed for both creatinine and protein, then it’s possible to compute the albumin/creatinine ratio of the urine at that time. This calculation corrects for how creatinine there is in a random sample, which offers more precise insight into how much albumin is being lost through a person’s urine.

Urine Protein 24-Hours: This day-long test measures how much protein gets released into a patient’s urine over a period of 24 consecutive hours. It offers higher levels of accuracy in measuring proteinuria as compared to random urine tests.

UPCR: The urine protein/creatinine ratio measures creatinine and protein in the same random sample, before correcting the creatinine volume. This is very similar to the tests for urine albumin/creatinine ratio.

Urine Protein Electrophoresis: This test is useful for ascertaining the various kinds and associated volumes of proteins that are present within a person’s urine. This urine test is effective for determining the presence of the Bence-Jones protein, meaning it’s occasionally employed if a medical provider suspects multiple myeloma.

When any protein electrophoresis demonstrates the presence of an abnormality, then an immunofixation test might be the follow-up that quantifies any abnormal proteins, along with an immunoassay evaluation to look for free light chains.

On top of urine testing, a handful of other tests are useful in analyzing kidney function and/or evaluating the specific nature of a protein that is in a person’s urine. Such tests might be done as follow-ups or simultaneously to urine protein screening. These tests can include:

Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) And Creatinine: These blood tests are effective ways of evaluating kidney functions. Both creatinine and urea are waste products that contain nitrogen; healthy kidneys will move these from a person’s blood into their urine. When kidneys aren’t working right, then creatinine and urea stay in a person’s bloodstream, meaning that their levels go up. It should be noted that while creatinine can get measured through urine samples, blood samples also go through measurement for an inclusive evaluation.

Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate (eGFR): This combines blood creatinine levels, age, and gender and ethnic variables to estimate a urine filtration rate. Progressive kidney damage lowers a person’s eGFR rate.

Creatinine Clearance: This measures creatinine levels in a 24-hour sample of urine, as well as a blood sample. The objective is calculating how much creatinine has been removed from a person’s blood through the urine. The known rate of excretion of creatinine from a person’s body is insightful in how well a person’s kidneys are functioning.

TP (Total Protein): This blood test can measure the totality of protein in serum.

Albumin: This blood test is a measurement of how concentrated albumin is.

Serum Protein Electrophoresis: This ascertains the kinds of related volumes of protein in a blood sample. Medical experts compare it to a urine electrophoresis pattern to see if a person’s bloodstream is the cause or urine protein.

SFLC (Serum Free Light Chains): This blood test can assist in the diagnosis and monitoring of conditions related to higher production levels of free light chains, as can happen with multiple myeloma.