Changes in renal function and structure are frequently observed in patients with diabetes mellitus. In the early phases of the disease, alterations in glomerular filtration rate, renal plasma flow, glomerular permeability and tubular capacity for glucose reabsorption occur. In the late stages of juvenile onset diabetes, renal failure is a common cause of death. For this reason, increasing attention is being paid to the possibility of long-term dialysis and renal transplantation in these patients. The kidneys play an important role in regulating insulin metabolism. The renal arteriovenous difference is approximately 30-45% and a linear relationship exists between the arterial insulin level and the renal arteriovenous concentration difference. The renal extraction of insulin is 200 ml/min in man, and it is estimated that 6-8 U are removed and degraded by the kidney in 24 h. The quantity of insulin in urine is small. However, its clearance is relatively constant over a wide range of serum concentrations and is 0.15-0.5 ml/min. The mean basal insulin excretion is 3.6 muU/mg creatinine, and a fourfold rise occurs following a glucose load. The urinary insulin values in neonates, children and patients with diabetes and renal failure are reviewed. In diabetic patients, progressive renal disease is accompanied by decreasing insulin requirements. In contrast, nondiabetic patients who develop renal failure frequently show abnormalities in carbohydrate metabolism, the commonest of which is a pseudodiabetic state.