A urinalysis is a routine medical test that’s often ordered as part of a regular physical exam. But did you ever wonder why?
One major reason is because your urine carries away a lot of waste material and byproducts, including byproducts of underlying disease processes. A urinalysis measures specific byproducts in your urine to determine if the level of those materials is elevated, which is a potential sign of an underlying medical problem.
Protein is one material that’s commonly found in urine. Some amount of protein is normal, but high levels of protein — a condition called proteinuria — can mean something’s wrong.
With multiple locations in Cypress and Houston, Texas, the team at Houston Kidney Specialists Center uses advanced testing and evaluation to determine the cause of proteinuria, helping patients get the most appropriate care to stay healthy. Here are six possible reasons why urine protein levels can be elevated.
1. Kidney problems
Your kidneys are intimately involved in urine production, acting as filters for waste material in your blood. As a byproduct of your kidneys, urine provides your doctor with some of the first indicators of kidney dysfunction.
In proteinuria, elevated levels of protein indicate that your kidneys aren’t filtering wastes as efficiently or effectively as they should, which is a possible indicator of kidney disease. Elevated levels of protein are also associated with diabetes, a chronic disease that can cause significant problems with kidney function.
2. Heart disease
Proteinuria is also used as an indicator for heart disease and heart disease risk. In fact, elevated urine protein is recognized as a marker or risk factor for heart disease, heart attack, and other cardiovascular issues. The link could be due to increased kidney problems associated with heart disease, increased inflammation, or other factors.
3. Rheumatoid arthritis
People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) frequently have associated kidney problems, due in part to increased inflammation associated with RA. Proteinuria is a frequent complication, and a urinalysis is commonly used to monitor kidney function in people who have RA.
Dehydration happens when your body doesn’t have or receive enough fluid to maintain normal functions. Feeling thirsty is one of the signs that you don’t have enough fluid.
When you’re not taking in enough fluids through foods or beverages, your urine becomes concentrated, increasing the relative level of protein. If dehydration continues, kidney damage can happen, and you can increase your risks for infections and kidney dysfunction.
5. Strenuous physical activity
Urine protein levels often increase following intense physical activity or prolonged low-intensity activity, a condition called post-exercise proteinuria (PEP). Excess sweating may contribute to PEP by depleting your body of fluids, but researchers also know that when you exercise, your kidney activity also changes, altering the way your kidneys absorb and release wastes.
6. Illness or fever
Sometimes called febrile proteinuria, proteinuria associated with an illness or a fever typically happen for a couple of reasons. First, if you have a fever, you may perspire more, losing more fluids through sweat.
Second, your body naturally uses more fluids to meet the demands associated with fighting off germs. You may also lose extra fluids through vomiting, diarrhea, and excess mucus production.
Pregnancy may also cause higher-than-normal levels of protein in your urine. In this case, you’ll need additional testing to determine if the elevated levels are a natural result of pregnancy, or if they could indicate a more serious issue, such as kidney dysfunction.
Transient vs. persistent proteinuria
Transient proteinuria is temporary. This is usually the case with dehydration, physical activity, and illness, which can usually be resolved by drinking more fluid, resting after the activity, or recovering from the illness.
Persistent proteinuria, however, isn’t temporary. This is the case with the other three items on this list — kidney problems, heart disease, and rheumatoid arthritis — in which there is an underlying chronic issue.
Changes in your urine or urination — including how often you urinate, how much urine you produce, how your urine looks or smells, and pain associated with urination — can all be key indicators of an underlying medical problem. Seeking treatment at the first sign of urinary changes can help stop serious diseases in their tracks and help you stay healthy.
To learn more about proteinuria or to get treatment for it, call 281-429-8780 or book an appointment online with Houston Kidney Specialists Center today.