protein in urine

A protein in urine test measures protein is in your urine (pee). Normally, you have very little protein in your urine. A large amount of protein in urine (proteinuria) may mean that you have a problem with your kidneys. Kidneys are organs that filter extra water and wastes out of your blood to make urine.

Proteins are large molecules that are essential for your body to work properly. Protein is found in all parts of your body, including your blood. When your kidneys clean waste from your blood, tiny filters prevent the large protein molecules from leaving your body through urine.

If there is a problem with your kidneys, protein can leak into your urine. High levels of protein in your urine over a period of time may be the first sign that kidney disease or another condition has damaged the filters in your kidneys. A protein in urine test can help you find kidney damage early so you can make changes to protect your kidneys.

Other names: urine protein, 24-hour urine protein; urine total protein; ratio; reagent strip urinalysis

What is it used for?

A protein in urine test is often part of a urinalysis, a test that measures different cells, chemicals, and substances in your urine. Urinalysis is used to check your general health. This test may also be used to diagnose or monitor kidney disease and many other types of health problems.

Why do I need a protein in urine test?

Your health care provider may order a protein in urine test as part of your regular checkup, or if you have symptoms of kidney disease. With some types of kidney disease, such as chronic kidney disease, you may not have symptoms until the later stages of the disease. These symptoms include:>

  • Swelling in the hands and feet or puffy eyelids
  • Dry skin, itching or numbness
  • Fatigue
  • Increased or decreased urination
  • Urine that is bloody or foamy
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sleep problems
  • Trouble thinking clearly

Protein in urine may be an early sign of kidney disease before you even have symptoms. So your provider may order a protein in urine test if you have a high risk for kidney disease. You’re more likely to develop kidney disease if you have:

  • A family history of kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease

Taking certain prescription and over-the-counter medicines can damage your kidneys, too. For example, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium) can harm the kidneys if you take them for a long period or if you have certain medical conditions.

Talk with your provider about your risk for kidney disease.

What happens during a protein in urine test?

You will need to give a urine sample for the test. A health care professional may give you a cleansing wipe, a small container, and instructions for how to use the “clean catch” method to collect your urine sample. It’s important to follow these instructions so that germs from your skin don’t get into the sample:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water and dry them.
  2. Open the container without touching the inside.
  3. Clean your genital area with the cleansing wipe:
    • For a penis, wipe the entire head (end) of the penis. If you have a foreskin, pull it back first.
    • For a vagina, separate the labia (the folds of skin around the vagina) and wipe the inner sides from front to back.
  4. Urinate into the toilet for a few seconds and then stop the flow. Start urinating again, this time into the container. Don’t let the container touch your body.
  5. Collect at least an ounce or two of urine into the container. The container should have markings to show how much urine is needed.
  6. Finish urinating into the toilet.
  7. Put the cap on the container and return it as instructed.

If you have hemorrhoids that bleed or are having your menstrual period, tell your provider before your test.

In certain cases, your provider may ask you to collect all of your urine during a 24-hour period. A “24-hour urine sample test” may provide more complete results, because the amount of protein and other substances in urine can vary throughout the day.

Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?

You don’t need any special preparations to test for protein in urine. If your provider has ordered a 24-hour urine sample, you will get specific instructions on how to provide and store your samples.

Are there any risks to the test?

There is no known risk to having a urinalysis or a urine in protein test.

What do the results mean?

If a large amount of protein is found in your urine sample, it doesn’t always mean that you have a medical problem that needs treatment. Strenuous exercise, dehydration, diet, stress, pregnancy, and other conditions can cause a temporary rise in urine protein levels.

Your provider may recommend other urinalysis tests to see whether you continue to have a high level of protein in your urine over time. If your urine protein remains high, it is likely a sign of kidney disease or kidney damage from other conditions.

The amount of protein in your urine is linked to the amount of kidney damage you may have. But you will need more tests to diagnose what is causing the damage. To learn what your results mean, talk with your provider.