The kidneys are responsible for filtering out toxins and excess waste in the body. They also help the body retain key nutrients that travel back to the tissues by way of the bloodstream. The kidneys regulate the water, sodium and electrolyte balance in the body, as well help prevent dehydration and bloating. If the kidneys cannot perform their functions correctly, chronic kidney disease may develop. Chronic kidney disease upsets the body's natural filtration process, which can end up depriving the body of important nutrients. In serious cases, chronic kidney disease can lead to kidney failure.
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Proteinuria is a condition of the kidneys, which is a result of impaired filtration. As blood travels through the kidneys, toxins and wastes are filtered out, but important proteins are retained. The primary protein found in the bloodstream is albumin. It is necessary for the body to keep a sufficient amount of albumin circulating because it aids in fighting off infection and also helps to clot blood. When the kidneys begin to lose their ability to filtrate properly, valuable albumin is excreted into the urine and the body begins to experience a loss of this important protein.
Tests For Proteinuria
For doctors to determine if the kidneys are leaking protein, a 24-hour collection of urine was once required to collect all of the data from the kidneys during a full day of filtration. This process is now simplified to require only an on-the-spot urine sample. According to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Center, a single urine sample is examined and both the albumin and creatinine levels are analyzed. Creatinine is found in the blood as well and forms as a result of normal muscle tissue breakdown. This test is referred to as the protein to creatinine ratio, or PCR. A PCR level that ranges between 50 and 300 mg/mmol is an indication of possible kidney damage, and a PCR level of over 300 mg/mmol indicates serious kidney problems.
Symptoms of Proteinuria
Proteinuria can be difficult to diagnose because there are few symptoms, and often, the symptoms mimic many other conditions. If proteinuria is not diagnosed immediately, it can lead to a kidney condition called nephrotic syndrome. Nephrotic syndrome is chronically high levels of protein in the urine. Symptoms of this condition are extreme water retention around the ankles, fingers and under the eyes along with elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Water retention can also occur in the belly and around the lungs, which can cause feelings of breathlessness. General feelings of fatigue along with a weakened immune system can also accompany excess protein in the urine.
Treatments for Proteinuria
Proteinuria can be brought on by other conditions such as diabetes, chronically high blood pressure or infections in the body. Often, treating the condition that brought on the proteinuria is the most effective course of treatment. These treatments will vary, but doctors at the National Kidney Federation also recommend lowering both salt and fat intakes in the diet, and possibly taking blood pressure or cholesterol medications. Monitoring sleep and stress levels is important to protect the immune system from further infections and exercising regularly will also help blood pressure and cholesterol.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse; Proteinuria; March 2009
- "Living Well With Kidney Failure"; Juliet Auer; 2005