Microalbuminuria (Urine albumin) occurs when the kidney leaks small amounts of albumin into the urine, in other words, when there is an abnormally high permeability for albumin in the renal glomerulus.
The level of albumin protein produced by microalbuminuria can be detected by special albumin-specific urine dipsticks. A microalbumin urine test determines the presence of the albumin in urine. In a properly functioning body, albumin is not normally present in urine because it is retained in the bloodstream by the kidneys.
Microalbuminuria can be diagnosed from a 24-hour urine collection (between 30–300 mg/24 hours) or, more commonly, from elevated concentrations in a spot sample (30 to 300 mg/L). Both must be measured on at least two of three measurements over a two- to three-month period.
An albumin level above the upper limit values is called "macroalbuminuria", or sometimes just albuminuria. Sometimes, the upper limit value is given as one less (such as 300 being given as 299) to mark that the higher value (here 300) is defined as macroalbuminuria.
To compensate for variations in urine concentration in spot-check samples, it is helpful to compare the amount of albumin in the sample against its concentration of creatinine. This is termed the albumin/creatinine ratio (ACR) and microalbuminuria is defined as ACR ≥3.5 mg/mmol (female) or ≥2.5 mg/mmol (male), or, with both substances measured by mass, as an ACR between 30 and 300 µg albumin/mg creatinine. For the diagnosis of microalbuminuria, care must be taken when collecting sample for the urine ACR. An early morning sample is preferred. The patient should refrain from heavy exercises 24 hours before the test. A repeat test should be done 3 to 6 months after the first positive test for microalbuminuria. Lastly, the test is inaccurate in a person with too much or too little muscle mass. This is due to the variation in creatinine level which is produced by the muscle.
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