Several studies have shown an association between blood pressure and nephropathy, but few have been large enough to examine whether, or how, this relation is influenced by retinopathy. We have therefore examined the independent relations of blood pressure to urinary albumin excretion and retinopathy in a cross-sectional observational study of over 3000 insulin-dependent diabetic patients (the EURODIAB IDDM Complications Study). The relation of blood pressure to urinary albumin excretion differed strikingly between patients with (46%) and without (54%) retinopathy. In those with retinopathy, mean urinary albumin excretion rate was normal (< 20 micrograms/min) below median diastolic pressure (75 mmHg) and increased steeply (p < 0.001) with blood pressure above this level. However, in patients without retinopathy, mean albumin excretion rate was normal across the range of diastolic pressure. This finding could not be explained by differences in glycaemic control or duration of diabetes between patients with and without retinopathy. These data identify a subgroup of patients whose high risk of nephropathy may reflect abnormal renal vulnerability to mildly raised blood pressure. Retinopathy is a close correlate of this vulnerability. Detection of even mild retinopathy, together with raised blood pressure, may be important in assessing nephropathy risk.