A prospective study of the prevalence and causes of persistent albuminuria (greater than 300 mg/24 hr) was conducted in non-insulin-dependent diabetic (NIDDM) patients, age less than 66 years, attending a diabetic clinic during 1987. All eligible patients (N = 370) were asked to collect at least one 24-hour urine sample for albumin analysis. Urine collection was obtained in 224 males and 139 females (98%). Fifty patients (7 women) suffered from persistent albuminuria (13.8%). The prevalence of albuminuria was significantly higher in males (19%) than in females (5%). A kidney biopsy was performed in 35 patients (70%). The kidney biopsies revealed diffuse and/or nodular diabetic glomerulosclerosis in 27 patients (77%), while the remaining eight patients (23%) had a variety of non-diabetic glomerulopathies, such as minimal lesion and mesangioproliferative glomerulonephritis. Diabetic retinopathy was present in 15 of 27 patients (56%) with diabetic glomerulosclerosis, while none of the eight patients with a non-diabetic glomerulopathy had retinopathy. Our cross sectional study has revealed a high prevalence of albuminuria and of non-diabetic glomerulopathy as a cause of this complication in NIDDM patients. Presence of diabetic retinopathy strongly suggests that a diabetic glomerulopathy is the cause of albuminuria. Albuminuric non-insulin-dependent diabetic patients without retinopathy require further evaluation, that is, kidney biopsy.