NephCure’s Proteinuria Resource Center
The purpose of the Proteinuria Resource Center site is to provide information on an early warning sign of chronic kidney disease (CKD), proteinuria. Many people are not aware they may be at risk for serious health problems, because there are so few early warning signs or symptoms of CKD. Many of the symptoms are non-specific and even temporary. This is not a diagnostic site, but rather an informational one that is designed to encourage people to have better discussions with their doctors.
What is Proteinuria? (pro-teen-yur-EE-uh)
Proteinuria is the name used by medical professional’s when a large amount of protein or Albumin, that should remain circulating in a person’s blood, is “spilled” into their urine and eliminated from the body. Proteins are large molecules that our bodies need to function properly. Proteinuria can also be referred to as Albumiuria. If you have protein spilling into your urine, that indicates the kidneys filtering units are not functioning properly. High levels of protein in the urine is serious. A cause of the proteinuria must be found and the goal of treatment should be to stop or lower the amount of protein as soon as possible to prevent permanent kidney damage.
What are the risk factors for Proteinuria?
The two most common health conditions associated with proteinuria are diabetes and high blood pressure. Both diabetes and high blood pressure can cause damage to the kidneys, which can lead to proteinuria. Kidneys can become damaged in other ways from:
- Immune system disorders
- Rare kidney diseases such as:
- Nephrotic Syndrome
- Minimal Change Disease
- Focal Segmental Golmulosclerosis
- Membranous Nephropathy
- C1q Nephropathy
- IgA Nephropathy
- IgM Nephropathy
- Alport Syndrome
Other risk factors include:
- Being over 65 years of age
- Family history of kidney disease
- Preeclampsia (high blood pressure and proteinuria during pregnancy)
- Race and ethnicity
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Proteinuria?
- Swelling, or edema, of the body, especially around the face, hands and feet
- Rapid weight gain
- Foamy or Bubbly urine
- High Blood Pressure
- Feeling tired
- Sometime there are no signs or symptoms at all
These signs of large protein loss indicate the possibility of a kidney problem. Proteinuria can easily be discovered during a routine doctor’s visit through a simple urine sample. Further laboratory testing is the only way to find out whether the protein in a person’s urine is significant.
What can Proteinuria lead to?
If the underlying problem that causes proteinuria is left untreated, a person is at risk for developing more serious kidney problems. The kidneys can loose some of their function or even stop working. End-stage renal disease (ESRD) is the last step in the disease process. Long term dialysis or a kidney transplant are the only treatment options to replace lost kidney function.
What is Nephrotic Syndrome and how does it relate to Proteinuria?
Nephrotic Syndrome is the name medical professionals give to a group of symptoms that suggest a serious kidney problem. Nephrotic Syndrome is not a disease, it describes a a collection of symptoms, that can be caused by any one of several diseases. Proteinuria is one of the most important signs (or laboratory findings) that suggest a person could have Nephrotic Syndrome.
What can your Test Results Mean?
It is important that you talk with your doctor if you have symptoms or a laboratory test result that may suggest you have Proteinuria. Testing can help a doctor make a correct diagnosis, but you need to manage your own health care actively.
A Urine Protein to Creatinine Ratio (UPCR) or Albumin to Creatinine Ratio (ACR)
A UPCR also known as an ACR test is performed through a urine sample and is used to quickly and simply estimate the amount of protein being spilling into the urine. While small amounts of protein in the urine is normal, large amounts can indicate the risk for kidney disease. A normal UPCR/ACR test result less than 30 mg/g. Levels between 30 – 300 mg/g are considered moderate levels of proteinuria. UPCR/ACR levels of protein great than 300 mg/g is considered severe proteinuria or albuminuria and a patient should consult with a kidney specialist called a nephrologist.
It is important to understand that patients with severe levels of protein being spilled into their urine should seek treatment immediately. Your top priority should be to:
- Ask your kidney specialist to help figure out what is causing the protein in your urine
- Make sure your specialist is aggressively treating your condition, in order to stop or slow the amount of protein spilling into your urine. Monitoring your condition is not aggressively treating. Please assume that while you have severe levels of proteinuria, your kidneys are actively being damaged.
- If you don’t feel you are being treated aggressively. Consider seeking a second opinion.
NephCure Kidney International is a patient advocacy organization and is not licensed to practice medicine. The information on this site is intended to be educational and not diagnostic or recommended treatment. Consult with your doctor if you learn anything that might alarm you or if you have any questions.
NephCure thanks Questcor Pharmaceuticals for its support of the Proteinuria Resource Center.