The body dispels excess urine from the body via urine. Thus, urine normally has some proteins content, but it is usually very low. Normal protein levels in urine range between 0 and 8 mg/dL. This reading standard may differ from one lab to another.
Protein content in urine can be measured by a dipstick test. A urine sample from a healthy person will usually not yield positive results for protein in urine during a dipstick test. The test will detect protein in urine only when protein content is excessively high. The condition of increased protein in urine is known as proteinuria.
In most cases, proteinuria is caused due to kidney problems like kidney infections, kidney diseases, etc. It can also occur as a symptom of chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, etc. Treatment of above normal protein levels in urine is dependent on the underlying causative ailment.
Symptoms accompanying above normal protein levels in urine
Normal protein levels in urine is generally not accompanied by any adverse symptoms. Proteinuria may occur along with the below listed signs and symptoms:
- Painful urination
- Facial swelling
- Frequent urination
- Pain in the sides or flanks
- Swollen hands, ankles, and feet
- Increased tiredness or fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Foamy or cloudy urine
- Discomfort or pain in the abdomen
- Smelly urine
Causes of excess protein levels in urine
The blood is abundant in protein and it is used for maintaining the health of the body. This protein is filtered out by the kidneys from the waste matter. Also, protein particles are too big to pass through the glomeruli, i.e., the filtering membrane of the kidneys. The body re-absorbs the protein from the kidneys for energy creation, etc. Any kind of kidney disease or conditions that cause kidney problems may adversely affect the glomeruli. This can allow protein particles to pass out along with urine.
- A temporary case of proteinuria may occur due to causes such as exposure to heat or extreme cold; intense workouts or physical activities; high fever; and stress. In such cases, protein levels in urine normalize on their own in a day or two.
Some of the common conditions that may cause above normal protein levels in urine for prolonged periods are listed below:
- Diabetes: It is a chronic disease marked by high levels of blood sugar. This can then have an adverse effect on kidney function and damage the organ. Kidney damage can eventually hamper its ability to filter protein, which may then cause above normal protein levels in urine. Both diabetes Type 1 and Type 2 can cause proteinuria. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause severe kidney damage, which is life-threatening. Hence, it must be immediately treated and managed effectively therein.
- Pyelonephritis: It refers to acute infection of the kidneys by bacteria. It causes inflammation and swelling of the nephrons present in the kidneys, which then causes excess protein to pass into urine. Glomerulonephritis, an infection of the nephron glomeruli, can also trigger this condition.
- Hypertension: One of the main causes of kidney problems is high blood pressure. Hypertension can harm the arteries that surround and occur within the kidneys; severe hypertension can also cause rupture of the small arterioles that enter the glomeruli. Subsequently, kidney function is adversely affected thereby causing proteinuria. Gestational hypertension is one of the leading causes of above normal protein levels in urine during pregnancy.
- Polycystic kidney disease: It is a disease marked by formation of several cysts or growths in the kidneys, thereby causing the organs to enlarge. In addition to above normal levels of protein in urine, patients may also suffer from a rise in the blood pressure.
- Preeclampsia: It is a severe health complication that occurs during or after the 20th week of pregnancy. The condition is marked by high blood pressure and above normal protein levels in urine.
- Amyloidosis: This disorder may cause increased protein accumulation in organs and tissues and thus increase the risk to occurrence of proteinuria.
- Other causes: Rheumatoid arthritis, urinary tract infection, bladder tumor, dehydration, Goodpasture’s syndrome, congestive heart failure and other heart conditions, sarcoidosis, diabetic nephropathy, multiple myeloma, lupus erythematosus, heavy metal poisoning, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, nephrotic syndrome, and use of certain drugs like nephrotoxic medicines that harm kidney function can also result in above normal protein levels in urine.
Proteinuria is caused due to varied underlying condition and hence treatment of above normal protein levels in urine is dependent on the causative disease. A few common treatment options are listed below:
- Kidney infections are mostly treated with antibiotics, painkillers, and other medications.
- Diabetes has to be managed with insulin, varied drugs, lifestyle and diet changes, exercising, and other steps to manage the blood sugar levels as advised by a doctor.
- Quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and meditation to reduce stress can help improve kidney function.