Updating the natural history of diabetic nephropathy

Pugliese, Giuseppe
December 2014
Acta Diabetologica;Dec2014, Vol. 51 Issue 6, p905
Academic Journal
Diabetic nephropathy (DN) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with both types of diabetes and the leading cause of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) worldwide. The classical, five-stage natural history of DN, after an initial phase of hyperfiltration, is characterized by a progressive increase of albuminuria from normoalbuminuria to proteinuria, followed by a decline of glomerular filtration rate (GFR). Accumulating evidence indicates that clinical course of DN has changed profoundly, likely as a consequence of changes in treatment. In fact, remission/regression of microalbuminuria is a common feature of both type 1 and 2 diabetes which far outweighs progression to proteinuria. Moreover, GFR loss has been shown to occur independently of albuminuria or even in the absence of it. Nonalbuminuric renal impairment probably represents a different pathway to loss of renal function, which might recognize different pathogenic mechanisms, prognostic implications, and possibly therapeutic measures, as compared with the albuminuric pathway. The nonalbuminuric phenotype might be related to macroangiopathy instead of microangiopathy and/or be the consequence of repeated and/or unresolved episodes of acute kidney injury, even of mild degree. Reduced GFR and albuminuria are both powerful risk factor for cardiovascular events, whereas albuminuria appears to predict death and progression to ESRD better than GFR loss. Finally, it is unclear whether reduced GFR and albuminuria warrant different interventions and whether GFR decline may also regress in response to treatment, as proteinuria does. Further epidemiological, pathologic, pathophysiological, and intervention studies are needed to clarify the distinctive features of nonalbuminuric renal impairment.


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