What is a Urine Protein Test?

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.
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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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