Proteinuria: Unraveling the Clues in Your Urine

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Proteinuria: Unraveling the Clues in Your Urine

Date of Content: November 9, 2023
Written by: Harvey Talento
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD


What is Proteinuria?

Proteinuria may seem like a complex term, but it can be simplified as the presence of excessive protein in urine. It can also indicate potential kidney issues or broader health concerns.

Proteins are fundamental building blocks in the body, performing essential functions such as muscle and bone development, regulating blood fluid levels, defending against infections, and aiding in tissue repair. Ideally, these proteins should remain in the bloodstream. When they appear in urine, it could signify a problem, potentially affecting your overall health.

Proteinuria can arise from various factors, ranging from temporary and benign situations like dehydration or intense physical activity to more severe underlying conditions like kidney diseases or immune disorders. Once diagnosed through medical testing, a treatment plan can be tailored to manage proteinuria effectively, ensuring your health remains a top priority.

Understanding proteinuria is a crucial first step in maintaining your well-being.


What Causes Proteinuria?

Proteinuria stems from a complex interplay of genetic and non-genetic influences. Genetic factors encompass hereditary aspects and variations in specific genes, while non-genetic factors involve environmental elements and various external triggers. These factors collectively contribute to the development of proteinuria and its potential health implications.

Genetic Factors

Genetic factors play a relatively rare but significant role in causing proteinuria, affecting children and adults. To shed light on this complex aspect of proteinuria, researchers have made noteworthy progress by delving into the genetic and molecular underpinnings of specific syndromic and nonsyndromic proteinuric disorders. These disorders stem from mutations in genes responsible for the structural components of the glomerular filtration barrier, which plays a pivotal role in filtering the blood and retaining essential proteins.


Genetic diversity has a profound influence on urinary biomarkers and their role in diagnosing kidney, urinary tract, and metabolic diseases. In a comprehensive study involving 150,274 Icelanders and their urine dipstick measurements, 20 association signals emerged, shedding light on how genetic variants impact clinical entities defined by the urine dipstick.

The study unveiled two variants associated with proteinuria, located in LRP2 and CUBN, which encode megalin and cubilin, key co-transporters responsible for the uptake of proteins in the proximal tubules of the kidneys. 

These novel findings emphasize the impact of genetic factors on urinary biomarkers and further underscore the significance of genetic diversity in understanding conditions affecting the kidneys and urinary tract. The study’s results unveil the complex interplay of genetic diversity in influencing urinary biomarkers, offering valuable insights into kidney and urinary tract health.

NR3C2 and COL4A4

In a comprehensive genome-wide association study involving 382,500 participants from the UK Biobank, researchers identified genetic variants associated with albuminuria, a key marker of kidney health. Notably, the study revealed a wealth of genetic insights, uncovering 33 genome-wide significant loci, including 32 novel and one previously reported association at the CUBN locus, further enhancing our understanding of kidney-related conditions.

Among the newly discovered associations, the NR3C2 and COL4A4 loci have potential clinical significance. The NR3C2 gene encodes the mineralocorticoid receptor, and it’s worth noting that mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists like spironolactone and eplerenone have been shown to reduce albuminuria when added to other antihypertensive medications. This finding highlights the potential for targeted therapies in managing albuminuria.

Moreover, mutations in the COL4A4 gene and its neighboring counterpart, COL4A3, can lead to autosomal Alport syndrome, a condition characterized by kidney disease, which may include proteinuria. These genetic revelations provide valuable insights into the intricate genetic factors influencing kidney health, paving the way for more tailored diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.

Non-Genetic (Environmental) Factors

In addition to genetic factors, non-genetic or environmental factors contribute significantly to proteinuria. Various conditions, such as infections, lifestyle choices, and environmental exposures, can trigger proteinuria as a response to external influences. Investigating these non-genetic factors helps us understand how external elements contribute to proteinuria and the measures that can be taken to prevent or effectively manage it.

Benign Causes of Proteinuria

Among the diverse factors influencing proteinuria, there are benign causes that do not pose a significant threat to overall health and are usually reversible once the underlying issues are resolved. Such factors include acute illnesses, physical exertion, and other benign triggers. The following are some common benign causes of proteinuria:

  • Fever
  • Acute illness
  • Exercise/intense physical activity
  • Orthostatic proteinuria
  • Dehydration
  • Emotional stress
  • Heart injury
  • Inflammatory process

Transient Proteinuria

Transient proteinuria is a temporary condition characterized by elevated protein levels in the urine. This proteinuria typically occurs due to benign and reversible factors such as:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Orthostatic proteinuria (occurs after a patient has been upright for an extended period. It is typically absent in early morning urine and is more common in individuals under 30 years of age)
  • Fever
  • Heavy exercise
  • Vaginal mucus
  • Pregnancy

Persistent Proteinuria

Persistent proteinuria, on the other hand, is a condition where elevated protein levels in the urine persist over time and may signify underlying renal or systemic health issues. Here are factors that contribute to the development of persistent proteinuria:

  • Primary Renal Disease (including glomerular conditions such as glomerulonephritis, as well as tubular disorders)
  • Secondary Renal Disease (including diabetes mellitus, connective tissue diseases, vasculitis, amyloidosis, and myeloma)
  • Heart Conditions
  • Hypertension

Is Proteinuria Serious?

Proteinuria is a common finding in urinalysis and can serve as an indicator of various medical conditions, with implications that range from benign to more serious. Some cases of proteinuria, such as orthostatic proteinuria, are relatively benign and may be associated with a favorable prognosis. However, other instances of proteinuria can be indicative of more serious underlying health issues, such as glomerular disease or multiple myeloma.

The seriousness of proteinuria often depends on its root causes and the amount of protein excreted in the urine. Several factors can contribute to increased protein levels in the urine, including changes in glomerular filtration, pathological alterations of the glomeruli, and toxic damage that increases urinary excretion of all proteins.

Since proteinuria may indicate severe renal conditions, further evaluation is crucial for diagnosis and proper medical management. It is a significant marker for potential underlying health issues needing attention and diagnosis.

What are the Symptoms of Proteinuria?

Proteinuria can manifest through various symptoms. It’s important to note that in the early stages, proteinuria may not cause visible symptoms, making regular check-ups and urinalysis crucial for early detection. However, when symptoms do occur, they can include:

  • Foamy Urine

One common symptom of proteinuria is the production of foamy or frothy urine. This occurs because the excess protein in the urine can become bubbly when it flows into the toilet bowl.

  • Swelling of the Hands, Feet, Face, and/or Abdomen

Another noticeable symptom can be swelling, also known as edema. Excess protein leaking into the urine means there is less protein in the blood to keep fluid in the blood vessels. As a result, fluid can accumulate in tissues, leading to swelling, particularly in the hands, feet, face, and abdomen.

It’s essential to be aware of these symptoms, particularly if they persist or worsen over time. Detecting and addressing proteinuria in its early stages can help prevent or manage underlying health conditions and minimize potential complications. Regular medical check-ups and urinalysis are key components of proactive healthcare, allowing for the timely evaluation of proteinuria and its associated symptoms.

Management and Considerations for Proteinuria

Proteinuria requires a comprehensive approach to its management. Treatment strategies aim at addressing the underlying cause while minimizing proteinuria levels, particularly albuminuria. Various treatment modalities have been established to manage proteinuria effectively. These treatments encompass:

Drugs Targeting the Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System

In adults with over 300 mg/24 hours of persistent proteinuria, the 2013 Kidney Disease Improving Global Outcomes (KDIGO) guideline strongly recommends using ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor antagonists (ARB). These medications, such as ACE inhibitors, have demonstrated their efficacy in reducing proteinuria in diabetic and nondiabetic patients. Beyond their impact on proteinuria, these drugs also lower the risk of renal disease progression, reducing the need for renal replacement therapy. Achieving a 50% reduction in albuminuria within the first six months to a year has been linked to a similar decrease in the risk of renal disease progression.

Diuretics and Aldosterone Antagonists

Moderate to severe proteinuria often results in fluid overload, requiring diuretic therapy and dietary salt restriction. Aldosterone antagonists have shown benefits in proteinuria management, but close monitoring for side effects, including hyperkalemia, is crucial. Combination therapy of ACE inhibitors with aldosterone antagonists may be considered, bearing in mind potential risks and benefits, particularly for patients with heart failure.

Calcium Channel Blockers

Non-dihydropyridine calcium channel blockers (NDCCBs), such as diltiazem and verapamil, have been found to reduce proteinuria more effectively than dihydropyridine calcium channel blockers (DCCBs). Novel NDCCBs, including efonidipine and benedipine, combined with ARBs, have shown promise in reducing proteinuria.

While these treatment options are instrumental in managing proteinuria, therapeutic decisions should be tailored to individual patients, considering their specific conditions and responses to treatment. Additionally, the assessment of combination therapies and potential side effects must be conducted on a case-by-case basis to ensure the most suitable approach.

Differential Diagnosis, Prognosis, Complications, and Consultations

The presence of proteinuria requires a thorough evaluation, considering conditions such as diabetic nephropathy, orthostatic proteinuria, and infections.

Prognosis in proteinuria patients hinges on early recognition and management, offering insights into potential outcomes for conditions such as IgA nephropathy and chronic kidney disease.

Proteinuria elevates the risk of complications such as heart disease, kidney disease progression, and the need for renal replacement therapy, with severity tied to its degree and duration.

Collaboration with specialists, regular monitoring, and holistic management are vital in addressing proteinuria and associated complications, especially in patients with hypertension and diabetes.

About the LifeDNA Vitamins & Supplements Report

LifeDNA’s Vitamins & Supplements Report is your customized roadmap to discovering the potential for proteinuria and can also help you manage the condition based on your genetic characteristics. This report explores your multiple genetic tendencies, offering personalized suggestions so you can optimize your overall wellness.

Find out if your genetics suggest a higher risk of proteinuria and begin your journey towards better wellness management with the LifeDNA Vitamins & Supplements Report. Get started today!


  • Proteinuria is the presence of excessive protein in urine, which can indicate underlying kidney issues and broader health concerns. It can result from various factors, from temporary and benign situations to severe underlying conditions, highlighting the need for timely diagnosis and management.
  • Genetic factors can contribute to urine composition disorders, with mutations in specific genes affecting the glomerular filtration barrier. Gene variations like those in LRP2, CUBN, NR3C2, and COL4A3 are linked to proteinuria, offering hereditary insights into kidney and urinary tract health.
  • Non-genetic factors, including environmental elements and external triggers, play a significant role in inducing proteinuria. Infections, lifestyle choices, and environmental exposures can trigger proteinuria, with benign and reversible causes such as acute illnesses and dehydration, as well as more persistent factors like renal diseases.
  • The seriousness of proteinuria depends on its root causes and the amount of protein in the urine. While some cases, like orthostatic proteinuria, are relatively benign, others can indicate more serious underlying health issues. Further evaluation is recommended to assess the seriousness of the condition and guide appropriate medical management.
  • Symptoms of proteinuria may include foamy urine and swelling of the hands, feet, face, and abdomen. Early stages may not exhibit visible symptoms, highlighting the importance of regular check-ups and urinalysis for early detection.
  • Managing proteinuria involves addressing the underlying cause and reducing proteinuria levels. Treatment modalities include drugs targeting the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, diuretics, and calcium channel blockers, with individualized approaches tailored to specific patients. Collaboration with specialists and regular assessments are essential for holistic management.



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*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.

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