Medical Q&As

Urine test - protein present?

Recently I had a medical and it was found that I had protein in my urine. What does this mean?

Proteinuria is the medical term for protein in the urine. It is a relatively common finding during routine examination and is usually detected when the urine is tested with a simple dipstick. Most people are unaware of its presence because often there are no symptoms. Proteinuria is an important finding because it may be an early indicator of kidney disease. However, it can also occur in the absence of kidney disease. For example it can occur with a raised body temperature or following strenuous exercise. Sometimes it can be absent early in the day but can occur later, which is referred to as orthostatic proteinuria. It can also occur during urinary infection and it then disappears once the infection has resolved. These exclusions apart, protein should not normally appear in the urine. The glomeruli or filtration units within the kidney prevent protein from leaking out from the body. Therefore if the glomeruli are damaged the filtration mechanism becomes faulty and protein appears in the urine. In your case it will probably be suggested that the test be repeated and if the protein is still present it will be necessary to perform a 24-hour collection of urine. In other words it will be requested that all of the urine that you pass in a 24-hour period be passed into a special container. That sample is then analysed to quantify the total amount of protein that is being lost each day. If on the other hand the repeat dipstick examination is normal you do not have persistent proteinuria in which case you can be reassured that the filtration mechanism in your kidneys is fine.