You will usually be asked to give a small urine sample while at your doctor's office.
In rare cases, you will have to collect all of your urine at home for 24 hours. To do this, you will get a special container from your doctor.
To make the test more accurate, urine creatinine level may also be measured. Creatinine is a chemical waste product of creatine. Creatine is a chemical made by the body that is used to supply energy to muscles.
How to Prepare for the Test
No special preparation is necessary for this test.
Why the Test is Performed
People with diabetes have a high risk of kidney damage. The "filters" in the kidneys, called nephrons, slowly thicken and become scarred over time. The kidneys begin to leak protein into the urine. This kidney damage can happen years before any diabetes symptoms begin. In the early stages of kidney problems, blood tests may be normal.
If you have diabetes, you should have this test each year. The test checks for signs of early kidney problems.
If this test shows that you are starting to have a kidney problem, you can get treatment before the problem gets worse.
People with severe kidney damage may need dialysis. They may eventually need a new kidney (kidney transplant).
Normally, albumin stays in the body. There is little or no albumin in the urine sample. Normal albumin levels in the urine are less than 30 mg/24 hours.
Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some laboratories use different measurements or may test different specimens. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your test results.
What Abnormal Results Mean
If the test finds a high level of albumin in your urine, your doctor may have you repeat the test.
You will need more tests to confirm a problem and show how severe the kidney damage may be.
Most often, a high level of albumin in the urine is caused by diabetes. A high albumin level may also occur with:
Some immune disorders
Some genetic disorders
High blood pressure
Narrowed artery of the kidney
Healthy people may have higher levels of protein in the urine after exercise. People who are dehydrated may also have higher levels.
There are no risks with providing a urine sample.
American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes--2014. DiabetesCare. 2014;37:S14-80.
McPherson RA. Specific proteins. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 19.
Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial Team.