End-stage renal failure (ESRF) in diabetic patients, mostly type 2, has become the most frequent cause of renal replacement therapy in western Europe. The majority of patients with type 2 diabetes and renal failure suffer from diabetic glomerulosclerosis, but nondiabetic renal disease and atypical presentations, e.g. as irreversible acute renal failure or ischaemic nephropathy, play an increasingly important role. Known risk factors for the onset of diabetic nephropathy include (1) genetic predisposition (indicated by a history of hypertension and cardiovascular events in first-degree relatives), (2) quality of glycaemic control, (3) level of blood pressure, and (4) smoking. At the time when type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, an abnormal blood pressure profile is found in approximately 80%. In patients with established diabetic nephropathy, hypertension is the most important factor which promotes progression, and this is susceptible to intervention. Although less data are available for type 2 diabetes (compared with type 1 diabetes), ACE inhibitors appear to be the antihypertensive agent of first choice, but monotherapy is rarely sufficient to achieve the blood pressure goal. Although, at least in principle, diabetic nephropathy is a preventable condition, currently only a minority of type 2 diabetic patients in western Europe receives adequate medical treatment to prevent onset or progression of diabetic nephropathy. Consequently, novel approaches to patient management and interdisciplinary interaction are necessary to fulfil the postulate of the St Vincent declaration concerning prevention of diabetic complications.