Markers of and risk factors for the development and progression of diabetic kidney disease

Am J Kidney Dis. 2014 Feb;63(2 Suppl 2):S39-62. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2013.10.048.


Diabetic kidney disease (DKD) occurs in 25%-40% of patients with diabetes. Given the dual problems of a significant risk of progression from DKD to end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, it is important to identify patients at risk of DKD and ESRD and initiate protective renal and cardiovascular therapies. The importance of preventive therapy is emphasized further by worldwide increases in the incidence of diabetes. This review summarizes the evidence regarding the prognostic value and benefits of targeting established and novel risk markers for DKD development and progression. Family history of DKD, smoking history, and glycemic, blood pressure, and plasma lipid level control are established factors for identifying people at greatest risk of DKD development and progression. Absolute albumin excretion rate (AER) and glomerular filtration rate (GFR) measurements also are important, although AER categorization generally lacks the necessary specificity and sensitivity, and estimates of declining GFR are compromised by methodological limitations for GFRs in the normal-to-high range. Emerging risk markers for progressive loss of kidney function include markers of oxidation and inflammation, profibrotic cytokines, uric acid, advanced glycation end products, functional and structural markers of vascular dysfunction, kidney structural changes, and tubular biomarkers. Among these, the most promising are serum uric acid and soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor (type 1 and type 2) levels, especially in relation to GFR changes. At present, these can only be considered as risk markers because they only identify an individual at increased risk of progressive DKD and not necessarily related to the causal pathway promoting kidney damage. Further work is needed to establish whether modulating these factors improves the prognosis in DKD. Although change in urinary peptidome levels also is a promising marker, there currently is neither a clinical assay nor adequate studies defining its prognostic value. Until these or other novel markers become available for clinical use, predictive accuracy often may be increased with greater attention to established markers.

Keywords: Diabetes mellitus; biomarker; disease trajectory; end-stage renal disease (ESRD); risk factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / diagnosis*
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / metabolism
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Kidney / physiopathology*
  • Kidney Function Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors


  • Biomarkers