Introduction: Albuminuria is a clinical hallmark of diabetic nephropathy (DN). Nevertheless, it is controversial whether pathologic DN lesions exist in individuals with diabetes with normoalbuminuria. We investigated the association between albuminuria levels and the frequency of DN lesions in autopsied diabetic cases from a Japanese community. Methods: A total of 106 autopsied cases with diabetes mellitus (mean age = 76 years, 43.4% male) who died within 6 years after their last health examination were included in the study. Urinary albumin-creatinine ratio (UACR) levels were divided into the following 3 groups: <30.0, 30.0 to 299.9, and ≥300.0 mg/g. The kidney specimens were evaluated with light microscopy. Glomerular DN lesions were categorized into class 0 to I, IIa, IIb, and III glomerular DN lesions according to the criteria of the Renal Pathology Society. A Cochran-Armitage test was used to evaluate the association between the UACR levels and the presence of class IIa or higher glomerular DN lesions. Results: The frequency of class IIa or higher glomerular DN lesions was 63.2% (IIa, 36.8%; IIb, 3.8%; and III, 22.6%) among overall cases. The frequencies increased significantly with higher UACR levels (P for trend = 0.02). The frequency of class IIa or higher glomerular DN lesions was 51.2%, even in individuals with UACR < 30 mg/g. Conclusion: This study revealed a positive association of the UACR levels with the presence of class IIa or higher glomerular DN lesions, which were also frequently found even in the normal range of UACR levels, among autopsied diabetic cases from a Japanese community.
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