Endocr Pract. 2017 Mar;23(3):353-362. doi: 10.4158/EP161471.RA. Epub 2016 Dec 14.


Objective: This review focuses on hypoglycemia in patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). It discusses the pathophysiology of glucose metabolism in the kidney, the impact of dialysis on glucose and insulin metabolism, and the challenges of glucose monitoring in ESRD. The clinical relevance of these changes is reviewed in relation to altered blood glucose targets and modification of antidiabetes therapy to prevent hypoglycemia. Based on current data and guidelines, recommendations for the outpatient and inpatient setting are provided for diabetes management in ESRD.

Methods: PubMed, OVID, and Google Scholar were searched to identify related articles through May 2016 using the following keywords: "glucose metabolism," "kidney," "diabetes," "hypoglycemia," "ESRD," and "insulin" in various combinations for this review.

Results: In ESRD, a combination of impaired insulin clearance, changes in glucose metabolism, and the dialysis process make patients vulnerable to low blood glucose levels. Hypoglycemia accounts for up to 3.6% of all ESRD-related admissions. At admission or during hospitalization, hypoglycemia in ESRD has a poor prognosis, with mortality rates reported at 30%. Several guidelines suggest a modified hemoglobin A1c (A1c) goal of 7 to 8.5% (53 to 69 mmol/mol) and an average blood glucose goal of 150 to 200 mg/dL. Noninsulin antidiabetes agents like dipeptidyl peptidase 4 inhibitors, repaglinide, and glipizide in appropriate doses and reduction of insulin doses up to 50% may help decrease hypoglycemia.

Conclusion: Patients with ESRD are at high risk for hypoglycemia. Increased awareness by providers regarding these risks and appropriate diabetes regimen adjustments can help minimize hypoglycemic events.

Abbreviations: ADA = antidiabetes agent BG = blood glucose CKD = chronic kidney disease DPP-4 = dipeptidyl peptidase 4 eGFR = estimated glomerular filtration rate ESRD = end-stage renal disease GFR = glomerular filtration rate HD = hemodialysis NPH = neutral protamine Hagedorn PD = peritoneal dialysis SA = short acting SU = sulfonylurea.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / drug therapy*
  • Hypoglycemia / etiology
  • Hypoglycemia / physiopathology*
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Insulin / pharmacokinetics
  • Insulin / therapeutic use
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / physiopathology*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin