Protein in urine a sign of kidney disease

PHOTO: Protein in urine a sign of kidney disease


When one's urine contains an abnormally high amount of protein, it is a sign of a condition called proteinuria.

This, in turn, signals kidney disease because protein leakage is caused by damage to the filters in the kidneys, which remove waste products and water from the body, said Dr Akira Wu, a renal physician at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

People with diabetes, poorly controlled hypertension, autoimmune diseases or severe obesity are at risk of proteinuria.

Dr Wu said most people with proteinuria display no symptoms. In fact, the problem is most commonly picked up through routine urine examinations.

If large amounts of protein are being lost through one's urine, the protein level in the person's blood - known as albumin - will plummet, leading to a serious condition called nephrotic syndrome. When this happens, the person will experience water retention in the form of swollen legs, tiredness and loss of appetite. He will also feel breathless if he exerts himself.

Sometimes, blood clots may even form in the calves and lungs, which can be fatal if it goes undetected for too long, he warned.

Treatment is based on the cause of one's kidney disease. Patients may be prescribed medicine to reduce the amount of protein in their urine.

For instance, medication belonging to the family of angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blocks may have to be taken in the long term. These help to prevent one's kidney disease from worsening, especially in people who also have diabetes.

Dr Wu said there are "no scientifically validated studies" to compare the effectiveness of oldenlandia with established Western medicine in treating proteinuria.

In general, people should adopt a healthy lifestyle to reduce their risk of getting kidney problems.

"Preventing diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and avoiding long-term use of painkillers, especially in the elderly, can prevent the development of kidney disease."

Those who already have chronic kidney disease and proteinuria should avoid eating too much protein, which would place additional stress on their kidneys, he added.

This article was first published on April 9, 2015.
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