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Diabetes Health Center

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Why Organ Transplants Can Lead to Diabetes

Getting a new heart, liver, kidney, lung, or other organ can save your life. Sometimes, it can also lead to type 2 diabetes.

How often does it happen? Experts aren't sure, but it could affect more than 1 in 10 people who get a transplant. For them, diabetes is especially risky. It makes organ rejection and dangerous infections more likely. But it can be treated.

Recommended Related to Diabetes

The Daily Diabetes Care Checklist

When you have type 2 diabetes, it's often a juggling act to remember all of your daily tasks. Nora Saul, RD, CDE, a diabetes educator and manager for nutrition services at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, offers this "healthy habits" checklist to guide you through the day. Check your blood sugar levels. Most people with type 2 diabetes need to check their blood sugar, also called glucose, at least once a day. "That's the minimum," Saul says. But the frequency depends on your treatment...

Read the The Daily Diabetes Care Checklist article > >

What Causes Diabetes After an Organ Transplant?

After an organ transplant, you need to take drugs for the rest of your life so your body doesn’t reject the new organ. These drugs help organ transplants succeed, but many of them, such as the medication tacrolimus (Astagraf, Prograf) or steroids, can cause diabetes or worsen it.

Apart from those medicines, you are also more likely to get diabetes if:

  • You’re obese.
  • Diabetes runs in your family.
  • You're African-American or Latino.
  • You're older than 40.
  • You have hepatitis C.

Talk to your doctor if you think that you're at high risk of getting diabetes. He may be able to prescribe medicines that are less likely to cause it.

Will It Last?

Diabetes after an organ transplant may go away if your doctor changes or lowers your medication dosage. Many people can stop taking steroids after 6 months or so. This may solve the problem.

While someone has diabetes, they may need medicine to manage it. Lifestyle changes make a difference, too. They include:

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on January 27, 2015

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