Your kidneys work as filters for your blood, helping your body eliminate waste products and excess fluids through your urine while preventing nutrients — such as protein — from leaving your bloodstream. If you have a large amount of protein in your urine, that can be a sign that your kidneys aren’t working properly, which, in turn, could point to an even deeper underlying problem.
At Houston Kidney Specialists Center, with multiple locations in Houston and Cypress, Texas, our team uses urine tests and other techniques to look for high levels of protein in the urine — a condition called proteinuria — then takes steps to determine the cause. In this post, learn six reasons why your protein levels could be elevated.
1. Kidney disease
Kidney disease affects the way the kidneys work. High levels of protein in your urine could be an indication that you have kidney disease or another kidney-related problem, such as inflammation or damage to the tiny blood vessels that filter your blood.
If you have kidney disease or kidney damage, the filtering system can malfunction, which can allow protein molecules to bypass the filters and enter your urine. Kidney infections can have a similar effect, and they can also cause proteinuria.
2. Illnesses and fever
Illnesses and fevers place a lot of stress on the body and kidneys, making it easier for protein to pass into your urine. In most cases, this type of proteinuria resolves once the illness is treated. Urinary tract infections (UTI) are one cause of illness and fever that frequently results in elevated protein levels in the urine.
Dehydration is a common cause of temporary proteinuria, and it’s also one that’s easily treatable. You can become dehydrated as a result of extreme temperatures, fever or illness, or physical exercise. You can also become dehydrated if you simply don’t drink enough throughout the day.
Dehydration causes your urine to become more concentrated than normal, which can sometimes lead to protein leakage into your urine. Staying hydrated helps your urine maintain a normal dilution, supporting normal kidney function and filtration.
4. Chronic diseases
Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and some autoimmune diseases can take a toll on your kidneys, and that means they can impair kidney function, too. Many chronic diseases damage the tiny blood vessels inside the kidneys, making it harder for them to filter protein appropriately.
Other diseases can also cause inflammation in the kidneys, which can lead to proteinuria. In these instances, managing the underlying disease is crucial for maintaining kidney health and function.
Pregnancy increases the strain on the kidneys, partly due to hormonal changes and also as a result of increased maternal blood volume. In most cases, this type of proteinuria resolves within a few weeks of childbirth. In some instances, though, proteinuria persists and requires medical treatment. Proteinuria during pregnancy can also be a sign of a potentially serious condition called preeclampsia or high blood pressure during pregnancy.
6. Physical or emotional stress
Excessive emotional stress or strenuous physical exercise can increase strain on the kidneys, which can lead to temporary proteinuria. In most cases, this type of proteinuria resolves once the physical activity ceases or the underlying cause of emotional stress resolves.
Keeping your kidneys healthy
While a small amount of protein in your urine probably isn’t anything to worry about, large amounts of protein or a regular or recurrent presence of protein could be a sign of a problem that needs medical treatment. Delaying care could lead to permanent kidney damage and lifelong impairment of kidney function.
To learn more about proteinuria or to schedule a urine test at one of our locations in Houston or Cypress, Texas, call 281-429-8780 or request an appointment online with Houston Kidney Specialists Center today.