What does protein in the urine indicate?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “What does protein in the urine indicate?” and provide information on the causes of proteinuria, whether autoimmune diseases cause proteinuria as well as some symptoms of proteinuria.

What does protein in the urine indicate?

Protein in the urine indicates proteinuria. There can be many types of Proteinuria present. This can include glomerular, tubular, overflow, and post-renal proteinuria. 

Proteinuria usually occurs when the kidneys do not work properly. When the kidneys do not work well, protein leaks into the urine.

What are the causes of proteinuria?

  • Dehydration can be one of the most common causes of proteinuria. Water can be used to transport nutrients. However, when dehydration occurs there is excess loss of water. There can be a temporary loss of protein along with water too.

When there is a loss of water, protein cannot be transported to the kidneys. The protein will then be released into the urine. 

If dehydration is severe, there can be more protein loss. Some symptoms of dehydration are fatigue, increased feeling of thirst, headaches, increased urination, dry skin, dry lips,  and loss of consciousness.

  • High blood pressure can result in proteinuria too. High blood pressure has the capability to damage blood vessels in the kidneys. This can prevent kidneys from taking in protein. Excess protein will then be released into the urine. 

An increase in blood pressure slowly develops over time. As a result, you might not observe the symptoms of proteinuria initially.

  • Diabetes can be another cause of proteinuria. An increase in blood sugar levels can cause kidneys to start excessively filtering the blood. 

This can cause the kidneys to ultimately become damaged. This can cause the protein to be released into the blood as there is a defect in the filtration process.

  • Glomerulonephritis can be another major cause of proteinuria. Glomeruli filter blood which can help in the reabsorption of protein. If the glomeruli do not work well, protein will start appearing in the urine.

Glomerulonephritis can result in nephrotic syndrome. This can cause a reduction in blood protein levels. 

There can also be leakage of red blood cells in urine if you suffer from glomerulonephritis. This can make urine appear red or pink in color.

  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD) causes severe damage to kidney functioning. There can be temporary proteinuria observed in CKD.
  • Preeclampsia is a condition wherein there is an increase in blood pressure levels that occur during pregnancy. 

This can affect the kidney’s filtration process which can result in proteinuria. Preeclampsia usually is temporary and subsides after pregnancy. However, it might still be better to monitor blood pressure levels after pregnancy.

  • Many types of cancer are associated with proteinuria. Some of them include lung cancer, colorectal cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and renal cell carcinoma. 

Inflammation occurs commonly in cancer. This can affect the kidney’s filtration capability. The abnormal proteins can bind with normal proteins in urine which can cause normal proteins to be excreted.

  • A defect in urinary tubules and urinary tract inflammation can cause proteinuria to occur as well.

Do autoimmune diseases cause proteinuria?

Yes, certain autoimmune diseases can trigger proteinuria. Usually, antibodies are produced in the body to fight against foreign objects or pathogens. 

However, if you suffer from an autoimmune disease, your body identifies body tissues as something foreign and starts attacking them. These can be called autoantibodies. If these autoantibodies attack kidneys or glomeruli, the filtration process can get affected.

This can cause a loss of protein in the urine. There are some autoimmune diseases related to proteinuria which are given below:

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) can affect the skin, joints, and kidneys. When kidneys are affected, it can cause proteinuria. 
  • Goodpasture syndrome is a disease that can particularly affect the lungs and kidneys
  • IgA Nephropathy can occur when Immunoglobulin A accumulates in the glomeruli, thus damaging them.

What are some symptoms of proteinuria?

Excess protein secretion in urine can result in foul-smelling urine. Urine will not be clear and it can be foamy. Apart from this, there can be swelling of the extremities and abdomen. Individuals can experience nausea, vomiting, and reduced appetite.

How is proteinuria treated?

An individual affected with proteinuria needs to bring about some dietary changes. The diet can vary depending on whether the individual suffers from diabetes, kidney, or heart disease. Losing weight can help in reducing symptoms too.

Dialysis can be recommended in cases of excess kidney damage. Blood pressure medications help in lowering preeclampsia which can reduce proteinuria. Diabetes medication can prevent glucose levels from spiking.


In this brief article, we have answered the question, “What does protein in the urine indicate?” and provided information on the causes of proteinuria, whether autoimmune diseases cause proteinuria as well as some symptoms of proteinuria.



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