The chronic vascular complications of diabetes (nephropathy, retinopathy and accelerated atherosclerosis) are a major cause of morbidity and premature mortality. In spite of the more widespread availability of intensive diabetes management, approximately one in three people with diabetes develop aggressive complications and over 70% die of atherosclerosis-related diseases. Genetic and acquired factors are likely to be contributory. Potential mediators of vascular damage may include the interrelated processes of lipoprotein abnormalities, glycation, oxidation and endothelial dysfunction. Lipoprotein abnormalities encompass alterations in lipid concentrations, lipoprotein composition and subclass distribution and lipoprotein-related enzymes. Nonenzymatic glycation and oxidative damage to lipoproteins, other proteins and to vascular structures may also be deleterious. As atherosclerosis is a chronic condition commencing in youth, and because clinical events may be silent in diabetes, surrogate measures of vascular disease are important for early identification of diabetic patients with or at high risk of vascular damage, and for monitoring efficacy of interventions. The increasing array of biochemical assays for markers and mediators of vascular damage, noninvasive measures of vascular health, and therapeutic options should enable a reduction in the excessive personal and economic burden of vascular disease in type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Copyright 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.