It’s normal to have a little protein in your urine, but high concentrations can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition.
The human body is amazing. Along with managing a massive number of processes and systems automatically, it also knows how to alert us when something is wrong.
Similar to how the color and consistency of your nasal mucus can indicate illness, your urine can also be an early sign that things aren’t in harmony.
Most people are aware that the color of our urine can be an easy way to determine whether a person is properly hydrated. Likewise, for many people, a urine test is the first step in discovering a pregnancy. However, other substances can also be found in the urine even when they shouldn’t be there — or in large concentrations.
If you find out that you have protein in your urine, you might wonder whether you should be worried. This article will help you understand what it means to have protein in your urine, how it gets there, and whether it’s dangerous.
While stress can sometimes be a cause of short-term proteinuria, it’s not linked with long-term forms of the condition.
Instead, people with protein in their urine for extended periods are more likely to experience more serious health conditions such as kidney disease or a family history of it, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
It’s normal to have a small amount of protein in your urine. However, in high concentrations, it can sometimes be a sign of kidney damage. When you have high concentrations of protein in your urine, it’s a condition called proteinuria.
Can stress cause protein in the urine during pregnancy?
Pregnancy and preeclampsia (a type of high blood pressure associated with pregnancy) are both connected with long lasting proteinuria. However, an increase in protein present in the urine is normal, even in an uneventful pregnancy.
The normal urinary protein range for a pregnancy in the third trimester is between 200 to 260 milligrams (mg) per day. Values higher than 300 mg every 24 hours are considered within the diagnosable range for proteinuria in pregnancy.
What else can cause protein in the urine?
Stress is typically linked with short-term proteinuria.
However, more chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and a family history of kidney disease can also cause a person to be predisposed to high urinary protein levels.
Sometimes, urinary tract infections (UTIs) can also cause proteinuria. However, other symptoms associated with UTIs are usually also present.
For short-term urinary protein spikes, being dehydrated, exposure to very cold temperatures, intensive physical activity, and even fever are common culprits. Additionally, other factors such as age and obesity can further increase a person’s risk of experiencing proteinuria.
Symptom presentation and severity of proteinuria depend on the amount of protein present in the urine.
If you’re experiencing only a minor increase, you’re unlikely to have noticeable symptoms. You may only know you have too much protein in your urine if you’re routinely testing your levels.
However, people with severe kidney damage or higher protein levels are likely to experience the following types of symptoms:
- swelling in the hands, face, belly, or feet
- more frequent urination
- urine that’s foamy, frothy, or bubbly
- frequently feeling nauseous or vomiting
- dry or itchy skin
- muscle cramps that tend to occur more often at night
Any of the above symptoms can be a sign of kidney damage. If you experience any of these, seek medical attention immediately. The only way to know whether you have proteinuria is through a urine test. This is a noninvasive procedure that only requires a urine sample at your doctor’s office or the hospital.
Depending on whether your condition is classified as short-term or long-term, you may need to continue testing for proteinuria at regular intervals. If your test is abnormal, your doctor may recommend additional screening, such as:
- glomerular filtrate rate (GMR) blood test to check kidney function
- imaging tests such as an ultrasound or CT scan
- kidney biopsy to check for kidney damage
Excess protein in your urine is often a result of other underlying and sometimes chronic diseases. So, the best way to reduce protein levels is by working to control those contributing diseases such as kidney disease, diabetes, or even hypertension.
Depending on the condition(s) that are present, your physician may recommend a variety of solutions to better manage them and reduce your protein levels. For example:
- Dietary changes such as reducing sugar and salt intake may be beneficial for people with kidney disease, diabetes, or hypertension.
- Medications may need to be prescribed to assist with controlling symptoms like high blood pressure or blood sugar.
- Some people may be instructed to follow a weight loss plan as part of their treatment.
- People with certain kinds of kidney disease — including kidney failure — may need to begin dialysis to aid in managing fluid imbalances or high blood pressure.
In most cases, high protein levels in your urine are a sign of an abnormality. However, depending on your overall health and any underlying conditions, having proteinuria doesn’t always mean a person is in poor health.
Thankfully, testing for the condition is an easy process. More importantly, if other health conditions are contributing to high protein levels, working to manage those issues or diseases is critical to correcting any urinary imbalances.