Why Microalbumin Tests Are Helpful With Diabetes

Part of managing diabetes, whether you have type 1 or 2, is watching for signs of possible diabetes complications, including kidney damage.

To detect damage in its early stages your physician may recommend you undergo periodic urine microalbumin testing to assess kidney function.

Well functioning kidneys filter waste products from blood while retaining healthy components, such as proteins. However, when kidneys are diseased proteins get past the filtration system and into our urine. Albumin (al-BYOO-min) is one of the first blood proteins to reach the urine after kidney damage occurs.

Though no one wants to face the onset of kidney problems, treatment in the early stages can prevent or delay more advanced disease—so detecting albumin in the urine can increase longevity and quality of life.

Taking The Test

At least the microalbumin test is appetite-friendly. You can eat and drink as usual before filling the urine cup—in one of three ways:

  • You might be asked to give a urine sample after four-hours of not urinating, or first thing in the morning.
  • You may be asked for one random “any time” urine sample. This method is frequently combined with a urine creatinine measurement, increasing the test’s accuracy. (Creatinine is a waste product normally filtered by the kidneys.)
  • Your doctor may want you to collect all your urine over a 24 hour period. Clearly, this is the most inconvenient test option, although a special container will be provided.

As with most urine tests, the difficult part is hitting the designated target.

Test Results, Testing Frequency

In the laboratory, albumin is measured as milligrams (mg) of protein leaked over 24 hours. Test results of less than 30 mg is considered normal. A reading of 30 to 300 mg may reveal early kidney disease; results above 300 mg suggest severe damage.

However, other factors can cause higher than anticipated microalbumin outcomes including a fever, some medications, recent high intensity exercise, blood in the urine, a urinary tract infection, or other kidney problems.

Doctors may recommend the microalbumin test be done:

  • Annually, for those with type 1 diabetes, starting five years after their diabetes diagnosis.
  • Annually, for those with type 2 diabetes, starting one year after their diabetes diagnosis.

More frequent testing may be suggested for patients with high blood pressure.

Source: Mayo Clinic
Photo credit: Barta IV

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