Protein in the urine - you should know that!


Protein in the urine = proteinuria

Definition - what is protein in urine?

Everyone has small amounts of protein in their urine. However, if the amount of protein exceeds a certain value (150mg in 24 hours), one speaks of proteinuria. The kidney is the organ that regulates our urine output. Many waste materials that accumulate in the body are excreted in the urine. This also includes small proteins. If the kidney function is impaired, the proteins can no longer be adequately filtered and there is an increased excretion.

These are the causes of protein in the urine

Proteinuria (the excretion of too much protein in the urine) can be caused in different parts of the body. A distinction is made between harmless and dubious causes. Harmless causes are, for example, increased protein excretion during strong physical or psychological stress or during pregnancy. Drinking too little can also increase the protein concentration in the urine.

Problematic causes often have their origin in the kidney. For example, if the kidney corpuscles (glomeruli) are damaged, they become more permeable for proteins. This means that more of the proteins get into the urine. In this case, one speaks of glomerular proteinuria. However, the cause can also lie in another part of the kidney: in the tubule system. There the urine, initially formed by the kidney corpuscles, flows through a long pipe system (the tubules). During this process, minerals and proteins are repeatedly removed from the urine and waste materials are added. If this tubule system is damaged, not as much protein can be taken back from the urine as before, so that the protein excretion increases. Other causes of protein in the urine can lie beyond the kidneys in the urinary tract. For example, a bladder infection can lead to more inflammatory cells getting into the urine; these consist to a large extent of proteins and thus increase protein excretion. Other diseases such as diabetes (blood sugar disease) can also make themselves felt through protein in the urine.

Drink too little

Those who drink too little often notice this, among other things, from the particularly dark color of their urine. The body excretes a lot of waste products in the urine. If you drink enough, these can easily be dissolved in water and excreted. However, those who drink too little over a long period of time pose special challenges for the kidneys. This is because it has to move the body's waste products into the urine, even though there is not enough fluid available for excretion. In the long run, this can damage the kidneys, the kidney cells become permeable to proteins and these get into the urine.


The bladder is the organ in which the finished urine is stored. Inflammation of the bladder is usually caused by bacteria and causes an immune system reaction. To fight the inflammation, many inflammatory cells are drawn into the bladder, where they fight the bacteria. Both the bacteria and the inflammatory cells perish. Often these cells end up in the urine and are excreted with it. Since both the bacteria and the inflammatory cells are largely made up of proteins, this process increases the amount of protein excreted in the urine.

Read more about this at: Cystitis

Protein in the urine from stress

Psychological and / or physical stress can be a cause of increased excretion of protein in the urine. During physical stress or physical exertion, the muscles are strained, which means that an above-average number of metabolic waste products are created there, which must then be excreted via the kidneys. Mental stress often causes the excretion of proteins by increasing blood pressure. This forces the kidney to do more filtration, which can increase protein excretion. Mental stress that leads to weight loss leads to muscle breakdown, which can also cause protein in the urine.

Protein in the urine due to acidity

Overacidification can have two different causes in the body. Breathing plays a major role in regulating the acid-base balance, which is why lung diseases can lead to over-acidification. The second organ with a large regulatory involvement is the kidney. If this is damaged, the balance can get out of control, over-acidification and the excretion of proteins occur. If the acidification is caused by the lungs, the kidneys must take measures to counteract this trend. This, too, can overwhelm or damage the kidney, which in turn leads to protein in the urine.

Protein in the urine from a fungal infection

If there is protein in the urine, there is usually damage to the kidneys or urinary tract. These are usually caused by kidney disease or bacterial infections, but in rare cases fungal infections can also be the cause of this proteinuria. Swimming pools and pools are the main sources of danger for such a fungal infection. People whose immune system is weakened by illness or medication are also at risk. The fungi can enter the body through the urethra and cause inflammation of the urinary tract, bladder or kidneys. They are treated with antimycotics - the antifungal agents.

These symptoms tell me that I have protein in my urine

Protein in the urine basically causes few or no symptoms; rather, the protein excretion itself is to be understood as a symptom of other diseases. However, this “protein in the urine” symptom can occur along with other symptoms. Often, blood cells are excreted in the urine at the same time, which can lead to a darker to red coloration of the urine. Burning or stinging when urinating can also become noticeable. With more severe kidney diseases, pain in the kidney area can also occur. These are usually noticeable on the back in the lower area of ​​the thoracic spine. If the cause is infectious, there are additional symptoms such as fever and fatigue. An increased need to urinate and a large amount of urine can also be indications of protein in the urine and related diseases. Proteinuria can also be seen in the urine becoming more yellow. With particularly high concentrations of protein in the urine, the urine can even foam when urinating. Since an excretion of over 150 mg protein within 24 hours can be a symptom of many serious kidney diseases, the cause of the disease should always be clarified by a specialist (urologist, nephrologist).

Read more at: Painful urination

Can you see protein in the urine?

Protein in the urine is usually not visible. However, at particularly high concentrations, the urine may be darker in color. Foaming of the urine when urinating can also be seen with increased protein levels. However, the urine is usually normal in appearance. Symptoms accompanying proteinuria, such as the excretion of blood cells (hematuria), can become visible as the urine turns dark or red.

You might also be interested in: Urine color - what's behind it?

Diagnosis of protein in the urine

The diagnosis of protein in the urine must be made using a urine sample. Usually you put some urine in a cup. It is important to collect so-called midstream urine, otherwise high values ​​will be incorrectly measured. For this, the first part of the urine is not collected, then a certain amount of urine should end up in the cup, the last part is again not collected. The urine can then be examined. The quick test, the so-called urine stix, can identify within a few minutes whether there is an increased amount of protein in the urine. The urine is then examined further in the laboratory. A 24-hour urine collection is also part of the diagnosis.

For more information, see: Urinalysis

These tests are there

The best-known urine test is the so-called Urin-Stix, or U-Stix for short. This is offered by various companies and consists of a thin strip that is coated with various test fields. This strip can be dipped into the released urine, then the strip is allowed to dry. Usually the result can be read off after a minute. The color of the test fields is compared with the adjustment fields on the test strip jar. In this way, not only the protein content in the urine can be compared. Blood cells, sugar, density and other values ​​can also be tested in this way and provide initial indications of diseases. A detailed urine test then takes place in the laboratory.

Also read: Urinalysis

Treatment for protein in the urine

The therapy for protein in the urine is heavily dependent on the underlying disease of this proteinuria. In the event of a temporary increased excretion of protein, therapy is usually not necessary, especially if the symptom is due to a cause such as increased physical exertion or pregnancy. However, if the proteinuria is based on a disease, this should be treated. Urinary tract infections, for example, can cause increased protein in the urine; they are usually triggered by bacteria and are therefore best treated with antibiotics. Proteinuria can also be caused by medication, in which case the treating doctor should be consulted and a different medication should be used. The nephrotic syndrome, for example, can be considered as the underlying kidney disease. This can be triggered by various diseases of the kidney corpuscles (glomeruli). In addition, the kidneys play a major role in the body's water balance, which is why the treatment also includes drinking restrictions. Diuretics (water tablets) are also part of the treatment, as is blood pressure control with ACE inhibitors and a low-salt diet.

How do I feed if I have protein in my urine?

If you have protein in your urine, you should eat in such a way that the kidneys are stressed as little as possible. Above all, this requires a low-sodium diet. The easiest way to do this is to avoid consuming finished products. Rather, you should prepare your meals yourself in order to be able to control the amount of table salt used. It is also important to eat a sufficiently low-protein diet. Protein is mainly found in fish and meat, but can also be obtained from other animal products such as milk and cheese. In the broadest sense, drinking can also be included in the diet. In the case of proteinuria, there is usually a drinking quantity restriction that should be strictly adhered to in order not to overload the kidneys. Often times, a fluid log is kept that includes both the amount of fluids consumed and the amount of urine that is excreted. In order not to pose further challenges for the kidneys, one ideally refrains from sugary drinks.Caffeine can also cause problems for the kidneys by interfering with the regulation of blood pressure and is therefore not recommended. You should also refrain from consuming alcohol.

For more information, see: Diet for protein in the urine due to kidney disease

How to lower protein in urine

The protein content in the urine usually only drops if the underlying disease that caused the proteinuria is treated. An antibiotic is often needed for infectious causes. Other illnesses are treated with a special diet and restricted drinking. Those who excrete a lot of protein because they simply consume a lot of protein should reduce their protein intake by, for example, reducing their meat consumption. The excretion of protein due to intense physical activity can also be contained by reducing this burden a little.

Course of the disease with protein in the urine

The course of the disease is largely determined by the underlying disease. If it is a urinary tract infection, a cystitis or any other infectious cause, the excretion of protein usually begins very suddenly. The disease can be quickly contained and cured with antibiotics. If there is an underlying kidney disease, the excretion of protein in the urine usually occurs slowly. Some of the kidney diseases can be completely cured, but the course is longer than with a simple infection. Chronic kidney patients usually struggle with proteinuria again and again.

How long do you have protein in your urine?

The duration of proteinuria varies greatly depending on the disease. With the harmless causes, the proteins in the urine usually disappear again after a few weeks. Even with infectious causes that have been treated with antibiotics, no protein can be found in the urine after a few days to weeks. Other diseases that damage the kidney corpuscles can last a lifetime. Usually they can also be treated in such a way that the protein content in the urine drops. However, this can take a few weeks.

Protein in the urine during pregnancy

The excretion of protein in the urine during pregnancy can have both benign (benign) and malignant (malignant) causes. It is estimated that around twenty percent of pregnant women will have protein in their urine during their pregnancy. As a rule, no importance should be attached to this symptom. The proteinuria usually disappears after a few days to weeks, other symptoms do not appear. The cause of this benign proteinuria lies in the changes in the body during pregnancy. So there are many hormonal changes, the blood flow situation has to be diverted so that the unborn child is well supplied and the blood pressure is also subject to a slightly different regulation. All of these factors can temporarily unbalance the kidneys and thus cause a temporary and harmless excretion of proteins. This usually takes place in early pregnancy, but proteinuria can also be harmless later. A malignant cause in pregnancy is, for example, so-called preeclampsia. This is a pregnancy poisoning that occurs more towards the end of pregnancy. The leading symptom is the blood pressure derailment, which can damage the kidneys and thus lead to the excretion of protein in the urine and water retention.

For more information, see:

  • Protein in the urine during pregnancy
  • pre-eclampsia

Protein and blood in the urine

The combination of protein and blood in the urine can have different causes. The kidney filters the fluid in the body and produces urine by trapping our body's waste materials in the fluid, while filtering valuable nutrients from the fluid back into the body. The kidney has the function of a sieve and only allows particles up to a certain size to pass through. If the kidney corpuscles are damaged, this sieve can become coarser, so that larger particles can also get into the urine. These larger particles include proteins and blood cells, for example. This causes protein and blood to show up in the urine. But the damage does not necessarily have to be in the kidney. Infections of the lower urinary tract and the bladder can lead to protein (protein) and hematuria (blood in the urine). Bacteria can, for example, adhere to the walls of the ureters or the bladder. There they are fought by inflammatory cells. As a result of this defense reaction, there is minimal bleeding, which causes the blood to enter the urine. The inflammatory cells and the bacteria consist of proteins and therefore form the protein content in the urine. But not only illnesses can be the cause of protein and blood in the urine. Medicines can also change the barrier of the kidney corpuscles and thus make the “sieve” more permeable for larger substances.

For more information, we recommend our website to: Blood in the urine

Protein and bacteria in the urine

Protein and bacteria in the urine are clear indicators of an infection in the urinary tract. This can be located in the urethra, the bladder or even the kidney and, depending on its location, cause greater or lesser damage. Anyone who has a bladder infection or a urinary tract infection usually experiences pain and burning when urinating, and symptoms such as fever can also occur. If the infection is recognized quickly and treated with antibiotics, it usually leaves no secondary damage and will heal again after one to two weeks. If, however, the bacteria remain in the urinary tract for so long that they ascend to the kidneys, one must expect a significantly longer course up to and including chronic kidney damage. In this case too, antibiotic therapy should be given as soon as possible. The diagnosis of protein and bacteria in the urine can initially be carried out using the rapid test using the Urine Stix. This test can detect an increased amount of protein in the urine and it also shows whether there are leukocytes (inflammatory cells) in the urine. These cells can usually only be found there if there is a urinary tract infection. Bacteria can be detected indirectly via their metabolic product "nitrite". If an infection is detected, a urine culture should be created. In this way you can prove which bacterium is responsible for the infection and give targeted antibiotics.

Read more on this topic at: Bacteria in the urine - how dangerous is it?

Protein in the urine and kidney pain

Kidney pain usually manifests itself in the form of back pain at the level of the lower thoracic spine, and flank pain can also occur. The kidney pain usually suggests that the cause of the proteins in the urine is actually in the kidney. For example, bacteria can settle in the kidney and cause inflammation there. Kidney diseases that originate in the kidney corpuscles can also lead to kidney pain. Since the filter function of the kidney is impaired, if the kidney corpuscles are damaged, protein is excreted in the urine.

For more information, see: Kidney pain