At present, diabetic kidney disease affects about 15-25 % of patients with type 1 diabetes (T1D) and 30-40 % of patients with type 2 diabetes (T2D). Several decades of extensive research have elucidated various pathways to be implicated in the development of diabetic kidney disease. These include metabolic factors beyond blood glucose (e.g. advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs)), haemodynamic factors (e.g. the renin angiotensin system (RAS)), intracellular signaling molecule proteins (e.g. protein kinase C (PKC)) and growth factors / cytokines (e.g. growth hormone (GH), insulin-like growth factors (IGFs), transforming growth factor ß (TGF-ß) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)). This review focusses on the role of three of these growth factors, i.e. GH, IGFs and VEGF. A brief discussion of each system is followed by description of its expression in the normal kidney. Then, for each system, in vitro, experimental and clinical evidence addressing the role of the system in diabetic kidney disease is presented. The interplay of each system to other potential pathways will also be adressed. Finally, well-known and potential therapeutic strategies targeting the GH / IGF and VEGF systems in a specific or indirect way will discussed.