Can protein in urine be fixed?

What causes protein in urine?

Protein in urine, known medically as proteinuria, happens when the kidneys are unable to fully filter waste products from the blood. Healthy kidneys should keep all protein in the blood and not allow it to leak into the urine. There are a few potential causes of proteinuria:

  • Kidney damage – Kidney diseases like glomerulonephritis or kidney infection can allow protein to pass into the urine. This is the most common cause of persistent proteinuria.
  • Diabetes – Uncontrolled diabetes can cause damage to the glomeruli in the kidneys, allowing protein to leak into the urine.
  • High blood pressure – Long term hypertension can also damage the kidneys and their filtering abilities.
  • Heart failure – When the heart is not pumping effectively, fluid can back up into the kidneys and cause proteinuria.
  • Lupus – This autoimmune disease can cause inflammation in the kidneys that damages their filtering system.
  • Multiple myeloma – This blood cancer can deposit abnormal proteins that clog up the kidney filters.
  • Preeclampsia – Some pregnant women can develop proteinuria and hypertension due to pregnancy complications.
  • Medications – Certain drugs like NSAIDs, antibiotics, or chemotherapy can be toxic to the kidneys.
  • Strenuous exercise – Extreme exercising can cause temporary leakage of protein into the urine that goes away with rest.

The amount of protein in the urine can range from trace amounts to dangerously high levels depending on the cause and severity of damage to the kidneys. Persistent proteinuria usually requires further evaluation and treatment.

How is protein in urine detected?

Proteinuria is often first discovered during a routine urinalysis. Several tests can then confirm and quantify the amount of protein:

  • Dipstick urinalysis – This is a quick test that can detect the presence of protein using a dipstick placed in the urine sample which changes color based on the protein level.
  • Albumin-to-creatinine ratio – Measures the amount of the protein albumin compared to creatinine in a random urine sample.
  • 24-hour urine collection – Measures the actual protein amount lost in the urine over a 24 hour period.
  • Urine protein electrophoresis – Used to identify the specific type of protein in the urine, such as albumin or antibodies.

Once significant proteinuria is diagnosed, further testing can help determine the cause:

  • Blood tests – Check kidney function, glucose, and antibody levels.
  • Imaging – CT scan, ultrasound, or MRI to visually assess the kidneys.
  • Kidney biopsy – Removal of a small sample of kidney tissue to examine under a microscope.

Identifying whether kidney damage, diabetes, hypertension, or other causes are responsible for the protein leakage is key to getting the right treatment.

Can protein in urine be fixed?

The outlook for proteinuria depends on the underlying cause and how much kidney damage is present. Some potential treatment approaches include:

  • Treating kidney infections – Antibiotics can cure infections causing temporary proteinuria.
  • Controlling diabetes and hypertension – Keeping glucose levels and blood pressure down prevents further kidney injury.
  • Blocking the RAAS system – Drugs like ACE inhibitors and ARBs reduce proteinuria by dilating the blood vessels in the kidneys.
  • Limiting immune system damage – Steroids or other immunosuppressants can help kidney conditions like lupus.
  • Adjusting medications – Stopping or changing doses of medicines that are toxic to kidneys.
  • Dialysis – When the kidneys have failed, dialysis can filter wastes and fluids.
  • Kidney transplant – Severe kidney disease may require a transplant.

The goals of treatment are to address the underlying cause, prevent further damage, and reduce the amount of protein leakage. If kidney damage is mild, the right medications and lifestyle changes may successfully reduce proteinuria to trace or undetectable amounts. With advanced kidney disease, damage may be irreversible and proteinuria persistent even with treatment. Regular monitoring of urine protein levels helps assess if therapies are working.

Treating temporary proteinuria

Temporary, or transient, proteinuria may resolve on its own once the trigger is resolved. For example:

  • Orthostatic proteinuria – Protein in urine mainly upon standing up which goes away with lying down. Lifestyle changes to avoid prolonged standing can help.
  • Exercise-induced proteinuria – Protein in urine after intense exercise that goes away with rest. Reducing exercise intensity is recommended.
  • Fever or stress – Proteinuria triggered by an illness, infection, or stress often resolves once the person has recovered.

No specific treatment is needed for these short-term causes of protein in urine. However, it’s important to verify the proteinuria was transient through repeat urine testing.

Treating chronic proteinuria

For persistent proteinuria due to kidney damage or chronic diseases like diabetes or hypertension, more active treatment is needed to protect the remaining kidney function.


ACE inhibitors or ARBs are usually the first line treatment to reduce intraglomerular pressure and proteinuria levels. Other medications that may be helpful include:

  • Diuretics – Drain excess fluid from the body and lower blood pressure.
  • Beta-blockers – Also used to reduce blood pressure.
  • Statins – Lower cholesterol which is beneficial for kidney health.
  • Steroids – Suppress immune activity in autoimmune kidney disease.
  • Immunosuppressants – Such as cyclophosphamide or cyclosporine to reduce inflammation.

The specific medications prescribed depend on the cause of proteinuria and any co-existing conditions. Close monitoring of kidney function is necessary when starting new medications.

Lifestyle changes

In addition to medications, lifestyle changes are a key part of managing proteinuria:

  • Blood pressure control – Keeping BP below 130/80 is ideal to prevent kidney damage.
  • Diabetes management – Rigorous control of blood sugars protects the kidney filters.
  • Low-salt diet – Reducing sodium intake prevents fluid retention.
  • Protein restriction – Limiting dietary protein may help reduce proteinuria levels.
  • Smoking cessation – Stopping smoking improves kidney function.
  • Weight loss – For obese individuals, losing weight takes pressure off the kidneys.

Making these healthy lifestyle modifications can truly help “fix” proteinuria both directly by reducing protein loss, and indirectly by improving kidney health and function.

What happens if protein in urine is left untreated?

When proteinuria is left untreated, it can lead to dangerously high levels of protein loss and progressive loss of kidney function. Complications may include:

  • End stage kidney failure – Irreversible loss of filtering capacity requiring dialysis or transplant.
  • Cardiovascular disease – Protein in urine signals increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Edema – Fluid retention causing swelling in the legs, feet or ankles.
  • High blood pressure – Damage to kidney filters causes elevated blood pressure.
  • Electrolyte abnormalities – Imbalances of sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes.
  • Anemia – Kidneys produce the hormone erythropoietin, and low EPO causes anemia.
  • Weakened immune system – Higher infections risk as kidneys fail.

Clearly, allowing proteinuria to persist and progress is detrimental. Early treatment is vital both for relieving current symptoms and preventing permanent kidney damage. Aggressive treatment of underlying diseases like diabetes can get proteinuria under control before extensive loss of nephrons and filtering capacity.

Kidney damage irreversibility

The kidneys have remarkable regenerative powers if the cause of injury is removed promptly. However, there is a “point of no return” beyond which the structural kidney damage cannot be reversed.

Factors indicating irreversible damage:

  • Proteinuria persisting after 3-6 months of treatment
  • High levels of proteinuria > 3.5 grams per 24 hours
  • Presence of abnormal kidney structures on biopsy
  • Loss of over 50% of original kidney function

In these cases, proteinuria and lost kidney function are unlikely to improve. Dialysis or transplantation may be required. The key is early detection and treatment while kidney damage is still minimal and reversible.

Prognosis and long term effects

When proteinuria is diagnosed quickly and its cause addressed, the long term outlook can be good. With appropriate treatment, protein levels may gradually decline to normal and kidney function stabilize. However, prognosis depends largely on the underlying condition:

Diabetic proteinuria prognosis

For type 1 and type 2 diabetics, the degree of long term kidney function depends on duration of diabetes and proteinuria:

Diabetes Duration Proteinuria Duration 10 Year Kidney Survival
0-10 years 0-5 years 90%
10-20 years 0-5 years 80%
0-10 years 5-10 years 80%
10-20 years 5-10 years 50%

Controlling glucose levels and blood pressure are key to preserving kidney health.

Hypertension proteinuria prognosis

Hypertension is the second most common cause of end-stage kidney disease after diabetes. Prognosis depends on the extent of kidney damage:

Stage of Kidney Disease 10 Year Kidney Survival
Stage 1 (normal GFR) 100%
Stage 2 (mild loss) 80-90%
Stage 3 (moderate loss) 65%
Stage 4 (severe loss) 20%

Rigorous blood pressure control below 130/80 is recommended, along with medications that reduce intraglomerular pressure such as ACE inhibitors or ARBs.

Lupus proteinuria prognosis

In lupus nephritis, 10 year survival of kidney function also depends on the degree of existing damage:

Lupus Class 10 Year Kidney Survival
Class 1 Minimal mesangial 90%
Class 2 Mesangial proliferative 80%
Class 3 Focal 60%
Class 4 Diffuse 30%

Early diagnosis and immunosuppressive treatments are important to prevent loss of kidney function in lupus.

Transient proteinuria prognosis

For temporary causes like exercise, fever, or stress, proteinuria fully resolves once the trigger resolves without any long term consequences. No treatment is required, only monitoring to verify resolution.

The key message is that proteinuria due to diabetes, hypertension, autoimmune conditions, and other systemic diseases requires prompt treatment and tight control of the underlying disorder. With aggressive management, protein levels can be reduced and serious kidney dysfunction prevented.


Proteinuria, or protein in the urine, signals kidney damage and requires further evaluation. By identifying the underlying cause and beginning appropriate treatment, progression of proteinuria can often be halted or reversed if caught early on. Controlling diseases like diabetes and hypertension is crucial, along with medications that directly reduce protein loss through the kidneys. Lifestyle changes also play a large role. With quick diagnosis and the right treatment approach, proteinuria does not have to inevitably worsen. Kidney function can be preserved and proteinuria resolved or minimized to safe levels. Regular monitoring of urine protein excretion allows ongoing assessment of treatment efficacy. The prognosis is best when proteinuria is addressed early before substantial permanent nephron damage occurs.

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