PROTEINURIA: CAUSES, SYMPTOMS, TREATMENT
Proteinuria, pronounced (pro ten yoor ah), is the presence of an abnormal amount of protein in the urine. Albumin is the main protein in human blood. For this reason you will sometimes hear Proteinuria referred to as Albuminuria.
Proteins are essential to the human body. All parts of the body utilize them in various ways to maintain strength and good health. They are crucial in the building of muscles, bones, hair and nails. They regulate the circulation of fluids through the body, cause the blood to clot, and protect from infections.
Proteins are processed through the kidneys. As the blood passes through the kidneys, waste, what the body doesn’t need, is filtered out to be passed on to the bladder and eventually removed from the body in urine.
The kidney’s filters, called glomeruli, can become inflamed or damaged due to some health problem. The cause could be some type of kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or hypertension. When this happens the filters malfunction. They can no longer do the filtering job they were designed to do. Protein, such as albumin, that is too large to pass through the filters of a healthy kidney, easily pass through the damaged glomeruli into the urine. This causes Proteinuria.
Those At Risk
American Indians, African Americans, Pacific Islander Americans, and Hispanic/Latinos are at a higher risk for developing Proteinuria then are Caucasians. Anyone suffering from diabetes (type I or II), hypertension (high blood pressure), cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, the elderly, those who are overweight, and those who have a family history of kidney problems are also at high risk.
Symptoms of Proteinuria include swelling of the hands, feet, abdomen, or face and foamy urine. However, more often than not, you can have it without showing any symptoms. The best thing to do is see your physician, and provide her, or him, with a urine sample to be tested. Depending on the outcome of the test further urine and blood samples may be required.
Proteinuria can, and must, be treated to prevent further damage to the kidneys and eventual kidney failure. The type of treatment will depend upon the underlying cause. The diabetic must do everything possible to control their blood glucose. The person suffering from hypertension must do everything possible to control their blood pressure. ACE inhibitors or ARB’s may be prescribed for the person with hypertension, or both diabetes and hypertension. These two drugs have been found to be good protectors of kidney function. A diuretic is also frequently prescribed. A diet restricting salt and protein is highly recommended.
Finding proteinuria in children is not uncommon. Extensive testing is needed to determine if it is transient or persistent, benign or of a more serious nature. A benign condition called, Orthostatic Proteinuria, is diagnosed when protein is found in urine samples taken during the day when the child is up and about, but not found in urine samples taken when the child is lying down. The prognosis is more severe if the presence of protein in the urine persists and there are other signs of kidney disease. This requires further testing.
Proteinuria combined with high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia) during pregnancy can cause serious, even life threatening, complications. The diagnosis is based on the sudden onset of high blood pressure and proteinuria after 20 weeks of gestation. Regular check-ups are important for early detection and treatment.
Proteinuria is serious. Symptoms are not always present. The test is simple and painless. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to avoid further damage to the kidneys leading to kidney failure.