Protein — Urine

Definition

The protein urine dipstick test measures the presence of proteins, such as albumin, in a urine sample.

Albumin and protein can also be measured using a blood test.

Alternative Names

Urine protein; Albumin - urine; Urine albumin; Proteinuria; Albuminuria

How the Test is Performed

After you provide a urine sample, it is tested. The health care provider uses a dipstick made with a color-sensitive pad. The color change on the dipstick tells the provider the level of acid in your urine.

If needed, your provider may ask you to collect your urine at home over 24 hours. Your provider will tell you how to do this. Follow instructions exactly so that the results are accurate.

How to Prepare for the Test

Different medicines can change the result of this test. Before the test, tell your provider which medicines you are taking. DO NOT stop taking any medicine before talking to your provider.

The following may also interfere with test results:

  • Dehydration
  • Dye (contrast media) if you have a radiology scan within 3 days before the urine test
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Urine contaminated with fluids from the vagina

How the Test Will Feel

The test only involves normal urination. There is no discomfort.

Why the Test is Performed

This test is most often done when your provider suspects you have kidney disease. It may be used as a screening test.

Although small amounts of protein are normally in urine, a routine dipstick test may not detect them. A urine microalbumin test can be performed to detect small amounts of albumin in the urine that may not be detected on dipstick testing. If the kidney is diseased, proteins may be detected on a dipstick test, even if blood protein levels are normal.

Normal Results

For a random urine sample, normal values are 0 to 20 mg/dL.

For a 24-hour urine collection, the normal value is less than 80 mg per 24 hours.

The examples above are common measurements for results of these tests. Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your specific test results.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Larger amounts of protein in the urine may be due to:

  • Heart failure
  • Kidney problems, such as kidney damage, diabetic kidney disease, and kidney cysts
  • Loss of body fluids (dehydration)
  • Problems during pregnancy, such as seizures due to eclampsia or high blood pressure caused by preeclampsia
  • Urinary tract problems, such as a bladder tumor or infection
  • Multiple myeloma

Risks

There are no risks with this test.

References

Gerber GS, Brendler CB. Evaluation of the urologic patient: history, physical examination, and urinalysis. In: Wein AJ, Kavoussi LR, Novick AC, et al, eds. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 3.

Review Date: 8/29/2015

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