Proteinuria (protein in the urine)

Specialty of Nephrology

What is it?

Proteinuria happens when there is protein in the urine, a high amount is considered over 150 mg.  

This condition should be borne in mind when diagnosing haematuria (blood in the urine) as if they are affecting at the same time it may be due to a kidney disease.

What are the symptoms?

In the early stages of the disease, symptoms may not be noticed. As the condition progresses, the following symptoms may be present:

  • Cloudy urine or blood in the urine
  • Pain or burning when urinating
  • Swelling of the hands, feet, abdomen, or face
  • Tiredness, malaise, and nausea
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Loss of appetite

What causes it?   

The kidneys are responsible for filtering waste from the blood, while retaining what the body needs, including proteins. With proteinuria, there is a problem with how the kidneys are able to filter.  

There are some conditions that cause higher levels of protein in the urine and do not necessarily indicate kidney damage. They include:

  • Dehydration
  • Emotional stress
  • Exposure to extreme cold
  • Fever
  • Strenuous exercise.

A variety of other conditions can cause a permanent higher level of protein in the urine, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Amyloidosis: abnormal protein accumulation in organs
  • Lupus: autoimmune disease
  • Drug poisoning
  • Chronic kidney disease.    

How can it be prevented?    

A lot of people have protein in their urine so it is important to be aware of the risks it may entail. Some useful tips to avoid issues with excess protein in the urine are:

  • Have regular blood and urine tests if you have any symptoms or are at risk of proteinuria.
  • Drink water frequently
  • Have a balanced diet with a lot of fibre
  • Manage hypertension or diabetes adequately.

What is the treatment? 

Treatment involves replacing the protein value and finding out the cause for its loss, it may include:

  • The main treatment involves monitoring blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Lifestyle changes may need to be made including taking medications
  • If there is a build-up of fluid in the ankles or lung area, there are some diuretic medicines that can be taken to help get rid of the excess fluid
  • If the kidney damage is severe, kidney dialysis or a transplant may be an option.

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