Chapter II. Diabetic Nephropathy

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Rev Diabet Stud, 2015, 12(1-2):87-109 DOI 10.1900/RDS.2015.12.87

Diabetic Kidney Disease: A Syndrome Rather Than a Single Disease

Giorgina B. Piccoli1, Giorgio Grassi2, Gianfranca Cabiddu3, Marta Nazha1, Simona Roggero1, Irene Capizzi1, Agostino De Pascale4, Adriano M. Priola4, Cristina Di Vico1, Stefania Maxia3, Valentina Loi3, Anna M. Asunis5, Antonello Pani3, Andrea Veltri4

1SS Nefrologia, SCDU Urologia, San Luigi Gonzaga Hospital, Department of Clinical and Biological Sciences, University of Torino, Italy
2SCDU Endocrinologia, Diabetologia e Metabolismo, Citta della Salute e della Scienza Torino, Italy
3SC Nefrologia, Brotzu Hospital, Cagliari, Italy
4SCDU Radiologia, san Luigi Gonzaga Hospital, Department of Oncology, University of Torino, Italy
5SCD Anatomia Patologica, Brotzu Hospital, Cagliari, Italy
Address correspondence to: Giorgina B. Piccoli, e-mail:

Manuscript submitted March 26, 2015; resubmitted April 15, 2015; accepted April 22, 2015.

Keywords: diabetes, chronic kidney disease,diabetic nephropathy, glomerulosclerosis, glomeruli, retinopathy


The term "diabetic kidney" has recently been proposed to encompass the various lesions, involving all kidney structures that characterize protean kidney damage in patients with diabetes. While glomerular diseases may follow the stepwise progression that was described several decades ago, the tenet that proteinuria identifies diabetic nephropathy is disputed today and should be limited to glomerular lesions. Improvements in glycemic control may have contributed to a decrease in the prevalence of glomerular lesions, initially described as hallmarks of diabetic nephropathy, and revealed other types of renal damage, mainly related to vasculature and interstitium, and these types usually present with little or no proteinuria. Whilst glomerular damage is the hallmark of microvascular lesions, ischemic nephropathies, renal infarction, and cholesterol emboli syndrome are the result of macrovascular involvement, and the presence of underlying renal damage sets the stage for acute infections and drug-induced kidney injuries. Impairment of the phagocytic response can cause severe and unusual forms of acute and chronic pyelonephritis. It is thus concluded that screening for albuminuria, which is useful for detecting "glomerular diabetic nephropathy", does not identify all potential nephropathies in diabetes patients. As diabetes is a risk factor for all forms of kidney disease, diagnosis in diabetic patients should include the same combination of biochemical, clinical, and imaging tests as employed in non-diabetic subjects, but with the specific consideration that chronic kidney disease (CKD) may develop more rapidly and severely in diabetic patients.

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