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What is albuminuria?

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 it should be in your blood, not your urine.  When you have albumin (protein) in your urine, it is called “albuminuria” or “proteinuria.” 

How do I know if I have protein in my urine?

You can have a simple urine test.  This is part of a routine exam. 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 looked at under a microscope and sent to a laboratory, where a test called an ACR (albumin-to-creatinine ratio) is done.  An ACR shows whether you have albumin in your urine. A normal amount of albumin in your urine is less than 30 mg/g.   Anything above 30 mg/g may mean you have kidney disease, even if your GFR number is above 60.  

Kidney Numbers and the CKD Heat Map

Click here to download a printable resource that describes the kidney numbers that everyone should know and how your doctor uses them to diagnose chronic kidney disease (CKD).  You will also learn how the kidney numbers fit onto the CKD Heat Map, which helps to guide your treatment plan.

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

One of the main jobs of your kidneys is to filter your blood. Your kidneys 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 kidneys are healthy, you should have very little protein in your urine – or even none. But if your kidneys are damaged, protein can “leak” out of the kidneys into your urine.

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 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 helps determine 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.

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Kidney Numbers and CKD Heat Map

Watch a series of short, animated videos that will help you learn about the importance of knowing your kidney numbers, how the heat map works for identifying where you are in terms of kidney health and along with some tips for improving your kidney numbers and moving in the right direction on the heat map.

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.  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.

For more information:

  • Speak to your healthcare provider

  • Call the National Kidney Foundation's toll-free number 1-800-622-9010.

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