Contrasting results have been reported regarding the prevalence of hypertension in insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), showing a slightly higher or normal percentage of IDDM patients with elevated blood pressure levels than in the general population. Most of the cross-sectional and prospective studies on the prevalence of hypertension in IDDM show an association between microalbuminuria and elevated blood pressure levels. However, it is not clear whether hypertension is simply secondary to kidney damage or whether hypertension occurs with or even before the development of impaired kidney function. Patients with IDDM have a higher exchangeable body Na+ pool. Na+ retention in IDDM is accounted for by several metabolic and hormonal abnormalities such as hyperglycemia, hyperketonemia, hyperinsulinemia, altered secretion, and resistance to atrial natriuretic peptide. High blood pressure appears to be dependent, at least at some phase, on expansion of extracellular fluid volume as a consequence of defects in the renal secretion of Na+ and water. On the other hand, a tendency toward Na+ retention characterizes all patients with IDDM, whereas hypertension develops only in a subgroup of diabetic patients. One possible explanation for these findings is that a genetic predisposition plays a role in creating susceptibility to hypertension and perhaps to diabetic nephropathy independent of diabetes, even if Na+ retention can further deteriorate this susceptibility to hypertension. With regard to this issue, it has recently been suggested that the risk of kidney disease in patients with IDDM is associated with a genetic predisposition to hypertension. Furthermore, diabetic nephropathy occurs in familial clusters, because diabetic siblings of nephropathic diabetic patients show a higher frequency of diabetic nephropathy than the diabetic siblings of nonnephropathic diabetic patients. One of the possible genetic markers that could be useful to identify the diabetic patients with susceptibility to hypertension and diabetic nephropathy is the Na+-Li+ countertransport activity in erythrocytes.

This content is only available via PDF.