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Urine Protein (Dipstick)

Does this test have other names?

Reagent strip urinalysis, urine albumin

What is this test?

This test checks the amount of protein in your urine. Your urine normally contains a small amount of protein. Much of this protein is the type called albumin, but more than 200 other types of protein may be found in urine. When your body loses large amounts of protein in the urine, it can be because of dehydration, strenuous exercise, fever, or exposure to cold temperatures.

Excess protein in the urine can also be a sign of serious diseases, such as:

  • Kidney diseases

  • Cancer

  • Congestive heart failure, or CHF

  • Diabetes

  • Lupus

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Sickle-cell disease 

Why do I need this test?

You may need this test to see if you have a problem affecting your kidneys. Diabetes and high blood pressure are two common causes of kidney disease. Medications, certain chemicals, and illicit drugs can also harm the kidneys, as can certain inherited diseases. Kidney disease doesn't always cause symptoms, but these are warning signs that your kidneys aren't working properly:

  • Swelling around the eye and in the hands and feet

  • Trouble urinating

  • Frequent urination, especially at night 

What other tests might I have along with this test?

Your doctor may also take your blood pressure. He or she may also:

  • Check for blood in your urine

  • Measure your glomerular filtration rate, which shows how well your kidneys are working

  • Check your blood for blood sugar, protein, electrolytes, and cholesterol

  • Test for other diseases, including lupus and cancer 

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

Healthy adults normally excrete less than 150 milligrams of protein over 24 hours. Higher amounts of protein in your urine may mean that you have a health problem. Your health care provider will use the results of this test, along with other test results, to diagnose your health problem or track its changes. 

How is this test done?

This test requires a urine sample. Your health care provider may ask you to provide a single urine sample or collect your urine over a certain time period, such as 24 hours.

Does this test pose any risks?

This test poses no risks.

What might affect my test results?

If your urine is very alkaline, test results may falsely show protein in the urine. Certain medications or bacteria in the urine can have this effect. Blood in the urine may also interfere with the results.

Certain medications can also affect the results of this test.

How do I get ready for this test?

Ask your health care provider if any medications you're taking or medical conditions you have may affect this test. Be sure your doctor knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use.

Carefully follow your provider's directions for collecting a urine sample. For example, people taking a 24-hour urine test usually urinate without collecting it, note the time, and then collect their urine for the next 24 hours from that time.