Diabetic nephropathy. Its relationship to hypertension and means of pharmacological intervention

Drugs. 1997 Aug;54(2):197-234. doi: 10.2165/00003495-199754020-00002.


Hypertension and diabetes mellitus are common chronic conditions which frequently coexist. Diabetic nephropathy is a major cause of elevated blood pressure in patients with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). Diabetic nephropathy, arterial sclerosis, obesity and association of essential hypertension can be the causes of hypertension in patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring has revealed that the nocturnal fall of blood pressure is blunted in patients with diabetic nephropathy. A blunted diurnal blood pressure variation is seen in microalbuminuric diabetic patients and even in some normoalbuminuric patients. Accumulating data suggest that normalisation of blood pressure in hypertensive IDDM patients is most important to minimise the loss of kidney function. Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors have been reported to be effective in postponing the development of nephropathy and in slowing its progression. Whether only ACE inhibitors have such beneficial renal effects on diabetic nephropathy is under discussion. While many studies have suggested that insulin resistance and hyperinsulinaemia are related to an elevated blood pressure in hypertensive patients, there does not seem to be enough evidence to prove that insulin per se can raise blood pressure in humans. Neither an insulin infusion within a physiological range nor sustained hyperinsulinaemia and insulin resistance (e.g. patients with insulinoma, cystic ovary syndrome) have been associated with an elevated blood pressure. Insulin resistance in some hypertensive patients may be a consequence of a decreased blood flow due to an increased peripheral resistance. Preliminary evidence suggests that low birth weight or impaired fetal growth is related to hypertension and NIDDM. Familial clustering of diabetic nephropathy suggests the contribution of genetic susceptibility and/or environmental inheritance. The frequent association of nephropathy with hypertension has led to research on the genes related to hypertension (ACE, angiotensinogen). Nevertheless, to date no reliable and clinically useful genetic marker has been found. Attempts to correct the metabolic abnormalities derived from diabetes are a new topic in the treatment of diabetic nephropathy. The effects of HMG CoA reductase inhibitors (antihypercholesterolaemic drugs), aldose reductase inhibitors (inhibitors of the polyol pathway) and glycation inhibitors (inhibitors of formation of advanced glycosylation end-products) on diabetic nephropathy have been evaluated in animal studies and in some clinical trials. Thus far, results with HMG CoA reductase and aldose reductase inhibitors have been somewhat conflicting. The potential therapeutic role of glycation inhibition in the treatment of diabetes deserves further study.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / pharmacology
  • Aldehyde Reductase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Blood Pressure Monitoring, Ambulatory
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / pharmacology
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / complications*
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / physiopathology
  • Genetic Markers
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Hypertension / complications*
  • Hypertension / diagnosis
  • Hypertension / drug therapy
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Hypertension / genetics
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Insulin Resistance / genetics
  • Risk Factors


  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Genetic Markers
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Aldehyde Reductase