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Protein in the urine results from either excess protein in the body or impaired kidney function. This condition, called proteinuria, is usually short-lived and benign. In other more serious instances, increased urine protein levels can be indications of dangerous medical conditions.
Any significant stress to the body can result in a temporary increase in the levels of protein in the urine. During exercise, for example, protein is released into the bloodstream by the muscles. Even completely healthy kidneys often cannot filter all this excess protein, and some is lost into urine. A similar process occurs in individuals who are exposed to extreme temperatures or under emotional stress. These elevated protein levels are temporary and relatively harmless.
Temporary excesses of protein in the urine can also be caused by certain medications. Antibiotics, including penicillin, oxacillin, and methicillin, can occasionally make kidneys less effective. In addition, many medicines used to treat kidney and bladder infections may cause changes in kidney function. Occasional use of these medications is generally quite safe for patients who have healthy kidneys. Patients who will be taking these medicines for extended periods of time may require periodic testing of kidney functions.
A chronically high level of protein in urine is commonly a sign of underlying health issues. In these cases, kidney health is, obviously, the first area of investigation. Often, very treatable conditions like kidney and bladder infections are the culprits.
The presence of cysts on or within the kidneys can also lead to increased urine protein. Frequently, these are simple cysts with no specific causes. Seldom do these cysts require surgical intervention. In some cases, however, kidney cysts can be caused by serious genetic conditions such as polycystic kidney disease or medullary cystic kidney disease. These conditions cause multiple reoccurring cysts and often lead to significant kidney damage.
Many illnesses can lead to kidney damage and chronic kidney failure. Diabetic kidney damage is among the most common causes, but high blood pressure can also frequently be a factor. Amyloidosis, a condition in which excess proteins are produced by the body, can overwork and consequently injure the kidneys. In addition, most types of cancer originating in the urinary system can also lead to kidney damage.
In pregnant women, protein in the urine can be an indicator of preeclampsia. This condition can cause blood pressure to rise to a level that endangers both mother and baby. Maternal stroke and seizure activity are possible as preeclampsia progresses. Problems during labor and delivery are also likely.