Proteinuria is the name of a condition in which a person's urine contains an abnormally high amount of protein. You may also hear it called albuminuria or urine albumin, as albumin is the main protein in the blood. Proteinuria may indicate kidney function problems, because healthy kidneys filter out waste products from blood and retain things like proteins that the body needs. In healthy kidneys, proteins are too big to pass through the filters into a person's urine - but if those filters are damaged, proteinuria can result.
According to the National Institutes of Health, proteinuria is a sign of chronic kidney disease. This is something you are at risk for if you have diabetes or high blood pressure. For this reason, your regular checkups should include looking for protein levels in the urine. It is very important to catch proteinuria as soon as it starts occurring, as it can lead to end-stage renal disease, also known as kidney failure.
Before you begin to panic, it's also important to know proteinuria can actually have other origins too. Not drinking enough water can cause it, for example, and that's a pretty easy fix. However, you do need to take proteinuria seriously, as the consequences of ignoring it can be very bad indeed.
What should I look for?
In the early stages, you won't see any symptoms of proteinuria, which is why it's so important to get your urine tested for protein each time you see your doctor. As it progresses, you may notice urine that looks foamy, and you may also experience swelling, or edema, in the hands, feet, face or abdomen. These symptoms may mean kidney disease is progressing.
According to a 1996 study from the National Institutes of Health, proteinuria is the single best predictor of kidney failure in people who have Type 2 diabetes. It is very important to keep on top of testing the protein in your urine before you experience symptoms that indicate kidney failure is already in progress.