The incidence and prevalence rates of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in the United States continue to increase. In 1995, the incidence rate was 262 per million population, with a point prevalence rate of 975 per million population. The exact number of individuals with abnormal renal function but not yet at end stage is difficult to assess. Crude estimates suggest that approximately 0.4% of the U.S. population has serum creatinine values greater than 2.0 mg/dl. In some sub-populations, such as African Americans, the estimate is + as high as 1.0%. The rate of progression, likewise, is difficult to assess. In general, renal manifestations of certain systemic diseases such as diabetes mellitus and systemic lupus erythematosus, and those with significant proteinuria (usually greater that 3.0 g/24 hr) seem to have a more rapid progressive course to end stage. If intervention is expected to be successful in halting or slowing down progression, accurate assessment of the early manifestations of renal disease, structure, and function need to be established. Currently accepted methods of assessment of renal disease include measurement of renal function such as serum creatinine and glomerular filtration rate, measurement of proteinuria, assessment of tubular function, glomerular sieving and permselectivity, radiologic imaging techniques, and evaluation of histo-morphometry. Interventions that have been shown to slow progression include control of hypertension, and treatment modalities that reduce proteinuria, such as, the use of angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors. Further clinical and basic science studies are needed to accurately define the important predictors of progression, and interventions that are effective in slowing or halting progression.