Progressive decrease in the glomerular filtration rate (GFR), or renal decline, in type 1 diabetes (T1D) is observed in patients with macroalbuminuria. However, it is unknown whether this decline begins during microalbuminuria (MA) or normoalbuminuria (NA).
The study group (second Joslin Kidney Study) comprises patients with T1D and NA ( n = 286) or MA ( n = 248) who were followed for 4–10 years (median 8 years). Serial measurements (median 6, range 3–16) of serum creatinine and cystatin C were used jointly to estimate GFR (eGFRcr-cys) and assess its trajectories during follow-up.
Renal decline (progressive eGFRcr-cys loss of at least 3.3% per year) occurred in 10% of the NA and 35% of the MA ( P < 0.001). In both groups, the strongest determinants of renal decline were baseline serum concentrations of uric acid ( P < 0.001) and tumor necrosis factor receptor 1 or 2 (TNFR-1 or -2, P < 0.001). Other significant risk factors included baseline HbA 1c, age/diabetes duration, and systolic blood pressure. Relative impacts of these determinants were similar in NA and MA. Renal decline was not associated with sex or baseline serum concentration of TNF-α, IL-6, IL-8, IP-10, MCP-1, VCAM, ICAM, Fas, or FasL.
Renal decline in T1D begins during NA and it is determined by multiple factors, similar to MA. Thus, this early decline is the primary disease process leading to impaired renal function in T1D. Changes in albumin excretion rate, such as the onset of MA or its progression to macroalbuminuria, are either caused by or develop in parallel to the early renal decline.