What Is Albumin?
Albumin is a protein your body uses for tissue growth and repair. But if your kidneys aren’t working quite right, albumin starts to leak into your urine.
What Is a Microalbumin Urine Test?
A microalbumin urine test checks for small (or "micro") amounts of albumin in your urine -- at levels so small a regular urine test might not find them. It can be a sign of kidney disease.
Who Needs a Microalbumin Urine Test?
When you find out about a health issue early on, you can often take steps to protect yourself and keep your body strong. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, one of the things to look out for is kidney disease.
A microalbumin urine test helps because it can find kidney problems before they get too far.
Your kidneys filter your blood. They keep the good stuff your body needs and send the waste out through your pee.
Your doctor will suggest one when you have:
- Type 1 diabetes. You’ll get the test once a year starting 5 years from when you got the condition.
- Type 2 diabetes. You’ll get the test once a year starting as soon as you find out you have it.
- High blood pressure Your doctor will talk to you about how often to get tested.
You may also need to get tested if you:
- Are 65 or older with risk factors for heart or kidney disease
- Belong to an ethnic group more likely to get kidney disease, including African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and American Indians
- Have any family members who have or had kidney disease
In these cases, talk to your doctor about when to start testing and how often you’ll need it.
Diabetes and Kidney Disease
Diabetes is the No. 1 cause of kidney failure (and the leading cause of microalbumin in the urine) in the United States. When you have diabetes, the level of sugar (or “glucose”) in your blood is too high.
Over time, that extra sugar damages the small blood vessels in your kidneys. It becomes harder for them to clean your blood. Diabetes can also harm your nerves, which may lead to kidney injury.
What Happens During the Test?
To check for albumin, you need to provide a urine sample. Your doctor may ask you to do this in one of a few ways:
- Random test. You go to your doctor’s office. They’ll send you to a restroom and give you directions to pee into a cup. Your doctor will most likely ask the lab to check for creatinine as well as albumin. Creatinine is a normal waste product in your urine. When you measure both numbers, you get a clearer picture of what’s happening. You usually get results in 24 to 72 hours, but it depends on your lab.
- Timed test. For a short test, 2 hours, you’ll probably stay at the doctor’s office or lab.
- 12- or 24-hour test. The doctor will give you a special container. You’ll pee into it over 24 hours and take it back. When the 24 hours are up, go once more, add that urine, and note the time. Keep it cool until you can return it. The test looks for the same things as a random test, but gathering urine over a longer period gives the doctor a better idea of what’s in it. You should get results within a week or two.
Normal Albumin Levels and Albumin/Creatinine Ratio
Keep in mind that labs test things a bit differently from each other. Also, not all bodies are the same, so what’s normal for one person might not be normal for you. The numbers here are guidelines. Your doctor can help you understand what they mean.
Normal: less than 30 micrograms (mcg) per milligram (mg) of creatinine
Microalbuminuria: 300 mcg per mg of creatinine
Clinical albuminuria: More than 300 mcg/mg creatinine
Normal: Less than 20 mcg/minute
Microalbuminuria: 20-200 mcg/minute
Clinical albuminuria: More than 200 mcg/minute
Normal: Less than 30 mg
Microalbuminuria: 30-300 mg
Clinical albuminuria: More than 300 mg
If there is albumin in your pee, the amount likely varies during the day. That makes it a little harder to get an accurate measure. Plus, any of these could give you a result that’s higher than normal:
- Blood in your urine
- Lots of exercise right before the test
- Other kidney diseases
- Some medicines
- Urinary tract infection
If your results show a high level, your doctor will probably want to repeat the test.
You’re likely to do it a couple of times over the next 3 to 6 months. If two of three tests come back as high, it likely means you have early kidney disease. If the results are much higher than normal, it could be a sign of more advanced problems.
Your doctor will help you figure out what the results mean and what steps you can take.