Q&A: Protein in Urine

Q: The doctor told my mother that there’s protein in her urine. What does this mean and how should she take care of it?

A: Albumin is a protein that is usually found in the blood. It is usually filtered back into the circulation by the kidneys when they are healthy. Early kidney damage can be detected before large amount of proteins begin to be found in the urine by a test called the microalbumin test.  ‘Micro’ is used to describe the very small amounts of albumin in the urine. A urine test is performed to detect microalbumin. This can be performed in your physician’s office or in the laboratory.

Here are some general precautions to take when producing a urine sample for a microalbumin test as they may produce what is called a false positive result:

• Do not touch the edge of the cup with your genital area
•  If you are female do not have the test close to or during your menstrual cycle,
• Do not get toilet paper pubic hair or any other foreign substance in the container.
• Also do not have the test performed if you have been ill with a fever,
• High blood sugars may also give a false positive test result.

Abnormal test results need to be repeated at least two to three times over a period of three to six months. If microalbumin continues to be detected in the urine, this serves as an early warning sign of early kidney disease- a condition called Diabetic Nephropathy. Certain measures can be taken to slow down or prevent further damage to the kidneys.

In addition to making sure that your mother’s sugars are well controlled, your doctor will most likely place her on a class of medications called ACE inhibitors.  This has traditionally been known to be used in the control of blood pressure but they have also been found to be of benefit in early kidney disease in diabetes. If there is any evidence of protein in the urine they should be used regardless of whether her blood pressure is normal. So be sure to have your mother inquire from her primary care physician about a repeat microalbumin level in 3 months and she should remain open to starting an ACE inhibitor.

(The above is an excerpt from Dr Eno Nsima-Obot’s upcoming book on a Practical Guide for Living with Diabetes. For more information about this and other topics in wellness and prevention, log onto www.ask-dr-eno.com)