Urine protein tests detect and/or measure protein being released into the urine.
What are normal levels?
For a random urine sample, normal values are 0 to 20 mg/dL.
For a 24-hour urine collection, the normal value is less than 80 mg per 24 hours.
What are plasma proteins?
Plasma proteins are essential for all living beings. The kidneys, two organs found in the back at the bottom of the rib cage, recapture these proteins by filtering the blood by removing wastes and eliminating them from the body in the urine. When the kidneys are functioning normally, they retain or reabsorb the filtered proteins and return them to the blood.
What happens if kidneys are damaged?
If the kidneys are damaged or compromised due to other conditions, they become less effective at filtering, causing detectable amounts of protein to spill over into the urine. Routine dipstick testing of urine measures the presence of albumin. Albumin, a protein produced by the liver, makes up about 50%-60% of the protein in the blood. The rest is a mixture of globulins, including immunoglobulins. As kidney damage progresses, the amount of albumin in the urine increases, a key factor in the early detection of a potential kidney disorder.
What do elevated levels mean?
Elevated levels may be seen temporarily with conditions such as:
- cold exposure,
- or heavy exercise.
Persistent protein in the urine suggests possible kidney damage or some other condition that requires additional testing to determine the cause.
Proteinuria is frequently seen in chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, with increasing amounts of protein in the urine reflecting increasing kidney damage. With early kidney damage, the affected person is often asymptomatic. As damage progresses, or if protein loss is severe, the person may develop symptoms such as edema, shortness of breath, nausea, and fatigue. Excess protein overproduction, as seen with multiple myeloma, lymphoma, and amyloidosis, can also lead to proteinuria.
Proteinuria is not a specific disease. So its treatment depends on identifying and managing its underlying cause. If that cause is kidney disease, appropriate medical management is essential.
Untreated chronic kidney disease can lead to kidney failure. Proper treatment — especially in patients with chronic disease such as diabetes and high blood pressure — is essential to prevent the progressive kidney damage that is causing the proteinuria.
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