Microalbuminuria and hypertension with focus on type 1 and type 2 diabetes

J Intern Med. 2003 Jul;254(1):45-66. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2796.2003.01157.x.


Microalbuminuria and hypertension with Over the past decade, there has been considerable focus on the concept of microalbuminuria, not only because it predicts renal disease in type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but also because it relates to premature mortality in the diabetic and in the general population. More importantly, intervention at this stage is now possible with the perspective of preserving glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and ameliorating cardiovascular disease and ensuing strong end-points. INITIAL STUDIES: The concept of microalbuminuria was introduced about 20 years ago and since then there has been a multitude of studies and papers on this subject using the original definition, but not always, in the US. Before that time it was suggested, mainly from the US, that diabetic renal disease was an untreatable relentlessly progressive condition.

Genetic studies: There is an overwhelming number of studies on genetics and diabetes and also covering the genetics of diabetic complications including nephropathy. However, so far the results are extremely disappointing. Patients at risk cannot be identified and genetic analyses are of no value as a guide to treatment. The notion that the development of complications is controlled mainly by a special genetic pattern is increasingly doubtful. In genetic studies, it is rather phenotypic well-accepted risk factors that dominate. STRUCTURAL BASIS OF MICROALBUMINURIA: Patients with microalbuminuria have significant abnormalities in the kidney, including glomeruli. This is quite clear in patients with type 1 diabetes, but is also seen in type 2 diabetes, where on the other hand, other risk factors such as hypertension and dyslipidaemia also seem to be of importance, including loss of autoregulation. Renal biopsies are generally not indicated in the management of diabetic patients. MICROALBUMINURIA AND EARLY MORTALITY: It is quite clear that microalbuminuria predicts early mortality both in type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The association to other risk factors may partly explain this--but this does not account for the whole picture. Endothelial dysfunction as well as inflammatory and arteriosclerotic abnormalities in blood vessels may be a relevant hypothesis that needs to be further explored along with other possibilities. CLINICAL COURSE AND ASSOCIATED ABNORMALITIES: The risk factor for progression in normoalbuminuric patients to microalbuminuria is higher than normal albumin excretion (strongest factor), poor glycaemic control, elevated blood pressure, and to some extent smoking. The clinical course of microalbuminuria is usually progressive, but with the more effective intervention now available we encounter that the so-called natural history (without intervention) is increasingly difficult to study. Microalbuminuria is clearly associated with a number of abnormalities, almost in all organs, but GFR is generally well preserved in spite of more advanced structural lesions. Therefore, microalbuminuria is an important marker for more pronounced diabetic vascular disease in general as well as for nephropathy. Regression to normoalbuminuria only rarely occurs during standard unchanged nonintensive treatment. TREATMENT STRATEGIES: The best possible glycaemic control is important in preventing and ameliorating the course of normo- and micro-albuminuria. Another major treatment strategy, especially in microalbuminuric patients, is antihypertensive treatment including inhibition of the renal angiotensin aldosterone system. Numerous new studies are available, both in type 1 and type 2 diabetes, documenting that not only microalbuminuria but also renal and cardiovascular complications in these patient are also far better controlled by early detection and treatment. Therefore, screening for microalbuminuria should be a strategy in all diabetes management followed by effective intervention as outlined in this paper.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Albuminuria / etiology*
  • Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications*
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / complications
  • Diet, Protein-Restricted
  • Diet, Sodium-Restricted
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / etiology*
  • Male
  • Risk Factors


  • Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Antihypertensive Agents