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Dehydration and Proteinuria: Understanding the Link

Dehydration and Proteinuria: Understanding the Link

Your kidneys have an important job. As filters for your blood supply, your kidneys remove waste products and other excess materials before returning the clean blood to circulation.

Excess protein is one of the materials removed by your kidneys. While it’s not uncommon (or dangerous) to have small amounts of protein in your urine, too much protein — a condition called proteinuria — can indicate kidney dysfunction.

The team at Houston Kidney Specialists Center uses a urine test to measure protein levels and determine if additional evaluation is needed. In this post, we review the link between dehydration and proteinuria to help keep your kidneys healthy this summer and all year long.

Understanding proteinuria

Proteinuria itself isn’t a medical problem. Instead, excess protein indicates something may be wrong with your kidney function. 

We need protein for many reasons: Ample protein builds strong muscles and supports immune systems, among other key functions. When we consume protein, digestion breaks it down into various components and byproducts that circulate throughout the body. 

Excess protein byproducts can cause health problems, so it’s up to the kidneys to filter out those byproducts and excrete them through urination. But protein itself isn’t excreted; instead, your kidneys return proteins to your blood so your muscles and organs can use them.

Proteinuria means your kidneys are excreting protein instead of returning it to circulation. If you have proteinuria, our team conducts additional testing to find out why.

Lots of factors can lead to excess protein in your urine, including infections and underlying medical issues that can be complex. Sometimes, though, the answer is simple: dehydration.

The role of dehydration

The human body is 60% water, so it’s no surprise that if we don’t consume enough fluids, it can affect our health.

Dehydration isn’t uncommon — it can happen if we don’t consume enough fluids or we sweat a lot from physical activity, exposure to hot or dry environments, or fever. Vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration.

Dehydration can cause proteinuria in a few ways. First, because blood is a fluid, dehydration decreases blood volume and blood flow to your kidneys, interfering with their function. That means more protein can remain in your urine.

At the same time, dehydration makes urine more concentrated. The ratio of proteins in the blood increases, making it harder for the kidneys to filter them. Over time, this change can damage tiny filters (glomeruli) in your kidneys, resulting in protein leakage and proteinuria.

Dehydration can also trigger proteinuria if your kidneys are already stressed or damaged. In this way, proteinuria may be an early warning that you risk more serious kidney disease.

Recognizing dehydration

Most people think they’re dehydrated only if they’re thirsty, but that’s not so. While thirst can indicate dehydration, you can become dehydrated without knowing it — and dehydration can occur rapidly.

The key to preventing dehydration is to drink water or other non-caffeinated beverages throughout the day. Some foods, like soups and melon, also replenish fluids. 

Also, pay attention to your urine: If it’s dark, foamy, or has an unusual odor, it could be a sign of dehydration or other problems, especially if you notice those changes for more than a day.

A simple urine test is a good way to check for high levels of proteins and other byproducts that can indicate kidney problems. 

To schedule your urine test or find out what’s causing changes in your urine, request an appointment online or over the phone today with Houston Kidney Specialists Center in Houston and Cypress, Texas.

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