What is a urine protein (albumin) test?

It is a test that looks for the presence of albumin in your urine.  Albumin is a type of protein that is normally found in the blood.  Your body needs protein.  It is an important nutrient that helps build muscle, repair tissue, and fight infection.  But protein should be in your blood, not your urine.

How is a urine test done?

A simple urine test can be done in your doctor’s office.  You will be asked to pee into a clean cup called a “specimen cup.”  Only a small amount of your urine is needed (about two tablespoons) to do the test.  Some of the urine is tested right away with a dipstick — a thin, plastic strip that is placed in the urine.  The rest is examined under a microscope.

What’s wrong with having albumin (protein) in my urine?

One of the main jobs of your kidneys is to filter your blood. When your kidneys are healthy, they keep important things your body needs inside your blood, like protein. They also remove things your body doesn’t need, like waste products and extra water.

If your kidneys are damaged, protein can “leak” out of the kidneys into your urine.  Having protein in your urine is called “albuminuria” or “proteinuria.”

If I have albuminuria, does it mean I have kidney disease?

It may be an early sign of kidney disease, but your doctor will check you again to make sure albuminuria is not caused by something else, like not drinking enough water. If your doctor suspects that you have kidney disease, the urine test for albumin will be repeated.  Three positive results over three months or more is a sign of kidney disease.

You will also be given a simple blood test to estimate GFR.  GFR stands for glomerular filtration rate.  Your GFR number tells you how well your kidneys are working.

You may also be given:

  • Imaging tests.  (An ultrasound or CT scan).  This produces a picture of your kidneys and urinary tract.  It can show whether your kidneys have kidney stones or other problems.
  • A kidney biopsy.  This can help find out what caused your kidney disease and how much damage to the kidneys has happened.

How often do I need to have a test for albuminuria (proteinuria)?

People who are at increased risk for kidney disease should have this test as part of routine checkups by a healthcare provider.  Those at increased risk include:

  • People with diabetes
  • People with high blood pressure
  • People with a family history of kidney failure
  • People who are 65 years or older
  • Certain ethnic groups including African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, American Indians

If I have albuminuria, will I need treatment?

If kidney disease is confirmed, your healthcare provider will create a treatment plan for you.  You may also be asked to see a special kidney doctor called a nephrologist.  Your treatment may include:

  • Medications
  • Changes in your diet
  • Lifestyle changes such as losing extra weight, exercising, and stopping smoking.

* The information on this page is attributed to the National Kidney Foundation.