Protein in urine is called proteinuria and is not considered normal. While many diseases can trigger protein leakage in urine, it usually indicates a kidney problem. Test strips for protein in urine can help diagnose kidney infections, manage kidney disease as well as in early detection of risks to kidney health. A urine protein test allows you to take preemptive actions to protect the health of your kidneys.
The kidney filters extra water and wastes from your blood to produce urine. Proteins are large molecules that your body requires to function correctly. Protein can be found in all body parts, including the blood. When your kidneys remove waste from your blood, tiny filters prevent large protein molecules from exiting your body via urine. In ideal circumstances and with healthy kidneys, the body should utilize protein, e.g., to build and maintain muscles and fight infections. The protein may leak into the urine if these filters are not working properly.
What is the purpose of checking protein in urine?
Urine protein testing is a vital part of a routine urinalysis, which measures various cells, chemicals, and substances in your urine. Urinalysis is used to evaluate your overall health and helps in the diagnosis of several diseases, such as nephrotic syndrome, preeclampsia, proteinuria in diabetes, gestational diabetes, and lupus disease, among others. Protein in urine during pregnancy requires timely treatment for the health of the mother and fetus; therefore, monitoring proteinuria in pregnancy is essential. Since kidney function involves the filtration of the bloodstream to excrete unnecessary substances from the body, urine testing greatly helps with the diagnosis of kidney disease and various other health issues. A urine protein test is thus essential to evaluate the health of your kidneys and assess any potential risks.
Testing protein levels in the urine for kidney disease
The presence of protein in urine is considered an early sign of kidney disease. Protein in urine is usually one of the first observable symptoms of kidney disease (before other physical symptoms appear). If you have a high risk of kidney disease or are going through kidney-related health issues, your provider may suggest routine monitoring of urine protein levels. You are more likely to develop kidney disease if you have a family history of kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease. These tests may include a 24-hour urine protein test, tests to measure protein concentration in urine, and rapid testing with an at home urine test using protein urine test strips.
Symptoms of Kidney Disease
Kidney diseases, such as chronic kidney disease or CKD, may not always cause noticeable symptoms in the early stages of the disease. As the disease progresses, the typical symptoms of kidney disease include:
- Increased or decreased urination
- Hand and foot swelling or puffy eyelids
- Dry skin and itching
- Fatigue and Muscle cramps
- Bloody or foamy urine
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Sleep issues
- Difficulty thinking clearly
Causes of Kidney Disease
Kidney function can be impaired due to diseases such as
- Lupus disease
- Nephrotic syndrome
- Diabetes that can lead to proteinuria in diabetes
- Gestational diabetes
- Hypertension or high blood pressure and
An impaired kidney function can lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD). Other causes of CKD include, but are not limited to:
- Inflammation of the kidney's filtration units (glomeruli) or tubules (nephritis)
- Genetic or hereditary kidney diseases
- Urinary Tract Infections or obstructions in the urinary tract
- Bacteria in the urinary tract
- Kidney stones
- Frequent recurring episodes of kidney infections
- Autoimmune diseases (when the body's own immune system attacks the healthy cells/organs)
Covid-19 infections have also resulted in an increase in acute kidney injury (also known as acute renal failure) Causes of kidney disease due to Covid-19 infections include:
- Coronavirus infecting kidney cells
- Abnormally low levels of oxygen levels in the bloodstream of covid patients
- Body's own (hyper-active) immune response
- Clogged blood vessels in the kidneys
- Acute kidney injury, if left untreated, develops into chronic kidney disease.
Testing urine protein levels is a valuable diagnostic tool for kidney diseases that various conditions, including the Covid-19 infection, can cause.
How is a urine protein test performed?
A urine protein test can be performed at a provider's office, a laboratory, or home using urine test strips. You will need your urine sample for the test.
Urine protein testing in professional settings:
A healthcare professional may give you a cleansing wipe, a small container, and instructions for collecting your urine sample using the "clean catch" method. It's critical to follow these steps to avoid introducing germs/impurities from your skin into the sample:
1. Wash your hand with soap and water.
2. You should open the sterile container without touching it inside.
3. Use the cleansing wipe to clean your genital area:
- If you have biologically male anatomy, clean your penis by wiping the entire head (end) of the penis. Pull your foreskin back first if you have one.
- If you have biologically female anatomy, clean your vagina by separating the labia (the skin folds around the vagina) and gently wipe the inner sides from front to back.
4. Urinate for seconds before stopping the flow. Begin urinating once more, this time into the container. Don't let the container come into contact with your skin.
5. You should collect at least an ounce of urine into the container. The container will probably have markings to show how much urine is needed.
6. After you finish urinating, put the cap on the container and return it to your provider as instructed.
Tell your provider before your test if you have hemorrhoids that bleed or have your menstrual period.
Home urine testing for protein in urine:
At-home urine test strips that check the presence of protein in the urine (1-parameter urine protein dipstick tests) are available off-the-shelf and do not require a prescription. These reagent-based dipstick tests are simple to perform and provide reasonably accurate results. Dipsticks and instructions for collecting and testing your urine sample are usually included in the kits.
Begin by getting a clean, disposable, preferably sterile urine container for the test. You can easily buy an affordable one online.
Follow the instructions provided in the previous section to collect the urine sample.
Remove the dipstick from the container or pouch. Immerse the strip briefly in the urine sample and remove it. The reagent pad on the dipstick will start reacting with the urine sample. Compare the color of the reagent pad with the color chart provided by the manufacturer to interpret the results.