Protein in Urine (Proteinuria): What Causes It

Doctors can look and identify an individual’s health condition by checking on his/her urine laboratory tests.

urine sample in a container and color chart

Protein is the building blocks of muscles and as such, they should normally be too large to pass through the kidney’s filtration process. However, protein can slip through if the filters of the kidney have been damaged or may have some sort of condition.

Certain health issues can also cause protein in urine or proteinuria such as diabetes and hypertension. Doctors can look and identify an individual’s health condition by checking on his/her urine laboratory tests. Through urinalysis or the analysis of the urine, doctors can find out how much protein is present in the urine, determine the extent of kidney damage a patient has and determine if the patient really has protein in the urine or proteinuria.

Some Causes of Protein in Urine or proteinuria

There are a number of different factors that can cause protein in urine. Listed below are some of them:


Dehydration happens when the body gets insufficient fluids to function normally. This can lead to problems in the kidney and the way it processes and flushes out toxins from the body.

Strenuous Exercise

Extreme physical activity may also result in proteinuria or protein in urine as it puts pressure on the body to flush out unwanted toxins, making the kidneys work double time


Stress happens when the body’s fight or flight symptoms kick in. This normally results in the build-up of toxins in the body thereby putting pressure on the kidneys and its filtering process.


Fever is a symptom that the body may be warding off or fighting an infection. These infections also put a strain on the kidneys and may cause protein filtering issues leading to protein in urine or proteinuria.

Risk Factors of Protein in Urine or Proteinuria

Once a patient’s medical partner or doctor has determined the presence of protein in urine or proteinuria, the doctor will then try evaluate and assess for possible kidney damage. However, there are patients with an increased risk of proteinuria or kidney damage. Their doctors may advise daily checking for protein in the urine.

These patients with increased risk factors are patients that have type 2 diabetes, hypertension or high blood pressure, amyloidosis, Berger’s Disease, Endocarditis, Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, heart or cardiovascular disease, heart failure, Hodgkin lymphoma, lupus, malaria, multiple myeloma, orthostatic proteinuria, preeclampsia, pregnancy, Rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis, sickle cell and anemia. Doctors will also look at a patient’s history of kidney disease in the family to determine if a person has a higher risk of contracting the said illness.

Certain races and groups of people can also have an elevated risk factor for protein in urine or Proteinuria. This includes American Indians, African- Americans, Pacific Islander Americans, more aged people, and those who are overweight or morbidly obese.

Symptoms of Protein in Urine or Kidney Damage

Protein in urine or Proteinuria may be an indication of Kidney damage. Unfortunately, damage to kidneys usually do not have any symptoms during its first few stages which is why having a urinalysis or analysis of the urine is vital to check for any health problems associated with the kidneys.

The possible symptoms of protein in urine or proteinuria and kidney damage are:

Foamy urine Shortness of breath
Frequent urination Fatigue
Swelling in the hands or the feet Dry scaly skin
Having trouble going to sleep Metallic taste in the mouth
Hiccups Nausea
Vomiting Trouble concentrating

Pregnant women with protein in urine can also indicate preeclampsia which is a dangerous medical condition causing high blood pressure during pregnancy. Preeclampsia can also have symptoms such as headaches, vision changes, abdominal pain, nausea, decreased urine output and shortness of breath.

How is Protein in Urine or Proteinuria Detected?

As stated earlier, protein urine or Proteinuria is detected through laboratory analysis of the urine also called a urinalysis. This is a simple test that is usually done with a dipstick that has a color indicator that will tell the doctor if there are large amounts of protein in the urine. If protein in urine or proteinuria is detected by the strip, then it will change its color. This lets the doctor know the health condition of the patient particularly in terms of kidney health.

The health professional or doctor may also request other tests after the urinalysis to determine and ascertain if the patient does have kidney problems. These other tests include blood tests to measure glomerular rate (GFR), ultrasound, CT scan or even a kidney biopsy.

Patients that have protein in the urine may also be requested by the doctor to undergo checking of cholesterol, sugar levels, and high blood pressure. This is to determine the other possible causes of protein in urine or proteinuria or kidney damage.

Treatment for Protein in Urine or Proteinuria and Kidney Damage

Once it has been determined that a patient is indeed suffering from proteinuria or kidney damage, the doctor can then refer the patient to a nephrologist or kidney specialist. The nephrologist will then recommend and prescribe certain lifestyle changes or medications to address the said kidney damage. Treatment is customized based on the contributing factors to the damage of the kidneys.

Type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure are the top causes of kidney disease and if the patient has these conditions, then the doctor will recommend getting these conditions under control. Diabetics will be prescribed to manage blood sugar levels, modify eating habits, take medication and to increase physical activity or exercise. People with high blood pressure may also be given medication and recommended lifestyle changes. A combination of diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney damage may be prescribed with medication such as angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs). Patients with permanent kidney damage on the other may have to undergo dialysis.

Protein in Urine or Proteinuria should be a cause for concern as this may indicate an underlying medical condition that can lead to kidney damage. Immediately consulting a medical professional or doctor should be considered by individuals who suspect that they may have some medical conditions or symptoms related to kidney damage.

Possible Causes of Protein in Urine


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