Risk factors for the microvascular complications (nephropathy and retinopathy) of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes mellitus and the associated accelerated atherosclerosis include: age, diabetes duration, genetic factors, hyperglycaemia, hypertension, smoking, inflammation, glycation and oxidative stress and dyslipoproteinaemia. Hypertriglyceridaemia, low HDL and small dense LDL are common features of Type 2 diabetes and Type 1 diabetes with poor glycaemic control or renal complications. With the expansion of knowledge and of clinical and research laboratory tools, a broader definition of 'lipid' abnormalities in diabetes is appropriate. Dyslipoproteinaemia encompasses alterations in lipid levels, lipoprotein subclass distribution, composition (including modifications such as non-enzymatic glycation and oxidative damage), lipoprotein-related enzymes, and receptor interactions and subsequent cell signaling. Alterations occur in all lipoprotein classes; chylomicrons, VLDL, LDL, HDL, and Lp(a). There is also emerging evidence implicating lipoprotein related genotypes in the development of diabetic nephropathy and retinopathy. Lipoprotein related mechanisms associated with damage to the cardiovascular system may also be relevant to damage to the renal and ocular microvasculature. Adverse tissue effects are mediated by both alterations in lipoprotein function and adverse cellular responses. Recognition and treatment of lipoprotein-related risk factors, supported by an increasing array of assays and therapeutic agents, may facilitate early recognition and treatment of high complication risk diabetic patients. Further clinical and basic research, including intervention trials, is warranted to guide clinical practice. Optimal lipoprotein management, as part of a multi-faceted approach to diabetes care, may reduce the excessive personal and economic burden of microvascular complications and the related accelerated atherosclerosis.