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What Causes High Protein in Kidneys?

By Skyler White ; Updated July 18, 2017

A high protein content in the kidneys leads to proteinuria, which is an abnormal presence of protein in the urine. Blood passes through the kidneys filtering out any waste products while leaving essential compounds, like proteins. Usually, the majority of proteins are too large to pass through into the urine. However, damage to the kidneys can cause this to happen. Initially, there may not be symptoms of this disease; however, swelling of the feet, hands, abdomen and face can occur, which requires immediate medical attention. Several conditions can cause this.

Diabetes

People with diabetes can develop a high protein content in the kidneys leading to proteinuria. The high blood sugar levels in diabetics can overwork the kidneys, causing them to malfunction, explains the American Diabetes Association. According to Pedro Cortes and Carl Erik Mogensen in their book “The Diabetic Kidney,” people with Type 1 diabetes are more likely to develop proteinuria. They were also more likely to show signs of retinopathy, which is damage to the retina that can lead to blindness. Diabetics should carefully watch sugar intake levels to avoid damage to the kidneys.

Secondary Hypertension

High protein amounts in the kidneys often accompany hypertension in pregnant women, according to the text “ABC of Hypertension.” During pregnancy, a woman will exhibit 300mg/l of protein every 24 hours. This type of secondary hypertension can cause kidney failure, notes MayoClinic.com. Similar to regular hypertension that only affects the blood vessels, secondary hypertension doesn’t have any distinct symptoms, although some may experience headaches.

Kidney Inflammation

Kidney inflammation, called nephritis, may be indicative of an infection or an autoimmune disease such as lupus, according to KidsHealth. The initial symptom of this condition is high protein levels in the kidneys quantified in the urine. Swelling may also occur due to the kidney’s inability to move fluids out of the body. In advanced cases of nephritis, the high protein content can make the urine appear gel-like, according to Phyllis Balch in her book “Prescription for Herbal Healing.”

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