Clinical risk factors for nephropathy were assessed in a population-based study of Rochester, Minnesota, residents with diabetes mellitus initially diagnosed between 1945 and 1969 (incidence cohort). The 1031 Rochester residents with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) were followed through their complete medical records in the community to 1 January 1982. The prevalence of persistent proteinuria was 8.2% at the diagnosis of NIDDM. Among those initially free of persistent proteinuria, the subsequent incidence was 15.3/1000 person-yr. Twenty years after the diagnosis of diabetes, the cumulative incidence of persistent proteinuria was 24.6%. A proportional hazards model identified the following risk factors for persistent proteinuria in NIDDM: elevated initial fasting blood glucose (P < .01); older age at onset of diabetes (P < .01); male gender (P = .05); and presence of macrovascular disease (P = .05), diabetic retinopathy (P = .05), or glycosuria (P = .07) at the diagnosis of diabetes. Separate analyses controlling for attained age indicated no association between duration of NIDDM and the incidence of persistent proteinuria. Stratified analysis of the two most significant risk factors (fasting blood glucose and age) indicated that hyperglycemia was a stronger risk factor for proteinuria in younger diabetic subjects, perhaps because of a competing risk of death in the elderly diabetic patient. In contrast to a recently described decreasing secular trend of proteinuria in Danish insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus patients, there was no decrease over the past 40 yr in proteinuria risk in this NIDDM incidence cohort.

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