Protein in the urine is not normal (if it is above 150 mg, the doctor will say that the protein level in your urine is abnormal). There are times when the protein increases temporarily, and will return to normal on its own. However, if the problem persists or is very severe, you should seek medical help. If it lasts for more than a few days, protein in the urine is usually a sign of kidney disease or another health problem.
Part 1 of 2: Trying Lifestyle and Medical Treatment
Step 1. Take steps to reduce blood pressure
Elevated blood pressure puts a strain on the kidneys, and because persistent proteinuria (a sustained increase in protein in the urine) is almost always associated with kidney problems, lowering blood pressure can greatly help with this problem. Lifestyle strategies to reduce blood pressure include:
- Reduce salt in food. Avoid table salt when cooking. Perhaps more important is to reduce the habit of eating out or eating too many processed foods that are known to be high in salt (far more on average than homemade food).
- Lowers cholesterol. An increase in cholesterol contributes to the formation of plaque in the arteries, which in turn results in an increase in blood pressure. Ask your doctor to do blood tests to measure your fat and cholesterol levels to see if you need to improve your diet regarding fat and cholesterol.
Step 2. Take blood pressure medication
Usually, people diagnosed with kidney disease or kidney dysfunction (which is the main reason for a sustained increase in protein in the urine) receive blood pressure medication from a doctor. Specifically, the drug that is ideally prescribed by a doctor is an "ACE Inhibitor" (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor). Examples are Ramipril, Captopril, and Lisinopril. The advantage of this class of specific blood pressure medication is that it has additional benefits (and "protective effects") for the kidneys.
- Ask your doctor if you can get a prescription for this medicine, if it hasn't already been given.
- You may need more than one blood pressure medication in more severe cases of kidney disease.
Step 3. Ask your doctor about other medical treatments
For example, if you have an autoimmune disease and it's causing kidney problems (and therefore protein in the urine), you'll need medication to suppress your immune system. If your kidney problems (and proteinuria) are a complication of diabetes, you may need medications such as Metformin or Insulin to control your blood sugar levels. There are many possible diagnoses that could cause kidney problems or result in proteinuria. So talk to your doctor to get the best medical treatment for your case.
Part 2 of 2: Evaluating the Cause
Step 1. Know the cause with diagnosis
It is important to understand that the only way to reduce (or treat) protein in the urine is to diagnose the cause behind it. This is because protein in the urine is not a diagnosis, but a symptom that something is up. Only by diagnosing and treating the "thing" that increases the protein levels can you treat and treat it.
Step 2. Determine what type of "proteinuria" (increased protein in the urine) you are experiencing
There are three types of proteinuria, and the good news is that two of them don't require treatment and usually get better on their own over time. However, the third type requires a more comprehensive medical examination to determine the cause. The three types are:
A urine test reveals an increase in protein in one result, but it will decrease on its own and eventually return to normal on the next test result. Transient proteinuria is normally associated with acute stress, such as an illness that causes a fever or exercising more than usual (eg, training for a marathon). After the stress passes or your body gets used to it, protein levels will return to normal.
Abnormal protein levels associated with changes in posture (standing versus sitting versus lying down). This condition is not common, and tends to be found in adolescents. If this happens, treatment is not needed and the condition almost always resolves on its own as adults.
Protein levels in the urine are always high in the results of multiple tests. This is an indication of another problem such as kidney disease, diabetes, autoimmune disease, or another medical problem. This condition requires a series of tests to get a diagnosis, as well as medical treatment.
Step 3. Evaluate any transient stress you may be experiencing
As noted above, if you are sick with a fever, are exercising more than usual, or are experiencing some other acute stress, protein levels may temporarily increase as a result of stress. The key is to see the doctor again a few days later for a repeat urine test (and another measurement). At that point, your doctor can confirm that your protein levels have dropped and/or are expected to return to normal. If you have "transient proteinuria," the good news is that you won't need any treatment, and your protein levels will return to normal on their own after a few days or weeks.
Note that if you are experiencing "acute stress" (such as fever, excessive exercise, etc.), you should still have a repeat urine test to make sure that there is no serious problem
Step 4. Request a repeat urine test
Repeat urine tests are very important. This is because you will have to get a series of measurements of protein in the urine to see progress and whether the results are improving or not. Your doctor may offer you a urine test that you can do in a clinic, or ask you to do it yourself at home and send a urine sample to a lab. Remember that if you store urine at home, keep it in the refrigerator until you can take it to the lab for a formal analysis.
Step 5. Get a blood test
An additional diagnostic test that your doctor may order is a blood test, especially if you suspect you have kidney disease or other health problems. The doctor will measure BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and Creatinine. Both are kidney function tests, which provide valuable information about the health of your kidneys.
- Your doctor may also order other blood tests such as HbA1c (diabetes test) or autoimmune antibodies if you suspect you have an autoimmune disease.
- This all depends on your medical history, and the medical conditions that your doctor thinks are at risk for you.
Step 6. Get a kidney biopsy
In some cases, a kidney biopsy is also needed as a follow-up investigation to determine the cause of protein in the urine. This test is rarely performed, but may be needed if the doctor is unable to determine other causes.
Step 7. Recognize that protein in urine during pregnancy is another matter
If you are pregnant and have elevated protein levels, it may be due to a condition called preeclampsia. Read the article How to Treat Preeclampsia for more information about preeclampsia and increased levels of protein in the urine during pregnancy.