Diabetes mellitus and end-stage renal disease are two pathologic entities associated with increased cardiovascular risk. Several studies have shown that arterial stiffness is increased in both cases and contributes to the increased risk. In order to determine the effect of diabetes and renal failure on arterial stiffness, we conducted a case-control study. One hundred and twenty-two diabetic patients were compared to 122 non-diabetic patients matched to the study group for sex, age, mean arterial pressure, number and localisation of the atherosclerotic alterations. Arterial stiffness was assessed by automatic measurement of the aortic pulse wave velocity (PWV) and by measuring the peripheral and carotid pulse pressure (PP) and reflected waves through analysis of the pulse wave using the principle of applanation tonometry. Aortic PWV was significantly higher in the diabetic subgroup as well as PP at the peripheral and central levels for the same age and mean arterial pressure. In addition, renal failure was independently associated with an increased aortic PWV but not PP in the general population. Independent of the degree of renal failure, a fall in the glomerular filtration rate was also associated with increased aortic PWV. No interaction was noted between renal failure and diabetes mellitus. In conclusion, this study shows that diabetic patients have higher arterial stiffness compared to non-diabetic ones having one or more cardiovascular risk factors, manifested by increased aortic PWV and PP. In addition, renal failure, irrespective of its degree and independent of diabetes mellitus, is associated with increased aortic PWV but not PP.