Diabetes is commonly associated with both microvascular and macrovascular complications. These vascular complications are accelerated in the context of systemic hypertension. During the past few years the underlying molecular mechanisms responsible for diabetic vascular complications have begun to be clarified. It appears that both metabolic and hemodynamic factors interact to stimulate the expression of cytokines and growth factors in the various vascular trees. Overexpression of the prosclerotic cytokine transforming growth factor-beta has been observed in glomeruli and tubules from the diabetic kidney. In the retina the angiogenic cytokine vascular endothelial growth factor and its receptor, vascular endothelial growth factor R-2 are increased in experimental diabetes. These changes in growth factors are viewed to be responsible for the extracellular matrix accumulation in the diabetic kidney and new vessel formation in the diabetic retina. Changes in cytokines have also been observed at other vascular sites including the mesenteric vascular tree. Vasoactive hormones, such as angiotensin II and endothelin, are potent stimulators of cytokines with recent studies showing that inhibitors of these vasoactive hormone pathways may confer organ protection in diabetes by inhibition of growth factor expression. Glucose-dependent factors, such as the formation of advanced glycation end products that interact with specific receptors and lead to overexpression of a range of cytokines, may play an important role in diabetic vascular complications including atherosclerosis. It is likely that the effects of inhibitors of this pathway such as aminoguanidine on cytokine production may play a pivotal role in mediating the renal, retinal, and vasoprotective effects observed with this agent in experimental diabetes. It is anticipated that the advent of specific inhibitors of cytokine formation or action will provide new approaches for the prevention and treatment of diabetic vascular complications.