The development in recent years of sensitive assays specific for albumin has facilitated extensive investigation of the pathophysiology and clinical significance of microalbuminuria. It is now clear that the appearance of microalbuminuria represents a crucial event in the natural histories of diabetes mellitus and essential hypertension. It reflects the presence of generalized vascular damage and is strongly predictive of subsequent renal failure, cardiovascular morbidity, and death. Therapeutic interventions, including strict diabetic and blood-pressure control, can reduce microalbuminuria and improve the overall prognosis. The detection and treatment of microalbuminuria in these high-risk groups should now form an integral part of their management. Large-scale screening programmes are also recommended for insulin-dependent diabetics.