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What is a Urine Protein Test?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A urine protein test is a laboratory test performed to determine the amount of protein present in the urine. It is most commonly conducted as part of a routine urinalysis, in which levels of other compounds in the urine will be tested as well. This test does not cause any pain for the patient; she or he simply has to provide a urine sample for the lab technician.

One reason to conduct a urine protein test is as part of a general physical in which the goal is to assess overall health and to look for the early warning signs of any medical issues. A doctor can also order this test if there are concerns that a patient has kidney disease, or if the patient is experiencing symptoms of other conditions which are linked with protein in the urine. Because this test is painless, fast, and very cost effective, it can be a useful diagnostic tool for quickly ruling something out.

Normal levels of protein in the urine are relatively low. This is because when the kidneys are working properly, they do not allow very much protein to drain into the ureter, where it will make its way to the bladder so that it can be expressed by the body. If protein levels are high, it can be a sign that there is a problem with kidney function which is allowing protein past the kidneys. One important reason to request a protein urine test is to check on kidney function in patients with diabetes, as kidney damage will cause protein in the urine before other symptoms emerge.

Heart problems, leukemia, malaria, certain types of anemia, and lupus are some other examples of conditions which can cause elevated levels of protein in the urine. People can also be temporarily affected by stress or medications. When a urine protein test is requested, it is important to make sure that the doctor and the lab are aware of all the medications the patient uses, in case one might elevate protein and skew the results.

A very quick urine protein test can be done as a “dipstick” procedure, in which a probe is dipped into the urine. If protein is present, the probe will react. When a patient does have high protein levels in the urine, a second urine protein test may be ordered for confirmation or in the wake of treatment or adjustments to medications to see if the problem has been resolved.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Kat919 — On Dec 16, 2011

@MissDaphne - I can't think why it would be a different test. The urine test for protein is the best way to diagnose preeclampsia; I think high protein in the urine plus high blood pressure is the definitive diagnosis.

What it basically does is narrow your blood vessels, which is why your blood pressure goes up. I'm not sure why that causes protein in the urine, but I'm guess that it's because your kidneys and/or liver don't work as well without enough blood getting to them? The article mentions protein in the urine being a sign of kidney problems.

By MissDaphne — On Dec 15, 2011

Is this the same test they do on pregnant women? Every time I went to the doctor when I was pregnant, I would have to pee in a cup and I think they were checking for too much sugar (sign of gestational diabetes) or too much protein (sign of preeclampsia, I think).

So is this the same test, or a different one? And why does preeclampsia put protein in your urine, anyway?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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