Skip to content

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Diabetes and Organ Transplant

In some cases, diabetes can lead to damage that makes an organ transplant necessary. But diabetes isn't only a reason for organ transplants. It can also be the result.

Experts are not certain just how often people develop type 2 diabetes after the transplant of a heart, liver, kidney, lung, or other organ. One review of studies suggested that it could occur in more than one out of 10 people who get a transplant.

Recommended Related to Diabetes

Diabetes: Best Foot Care

For most people, a blister, cut, or scrape on the foot is no big deal -- an "ouch!" and a hurriedly applied bandage, and it's over. Not so if you have diabetes; meticulous daily foot care is as important as monitoring blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels. "Unfortunately, diabetes foot-health awareness doesn't have a colored ribbon or national voice," says foot care expert James Wrobel, DPM, of the University of Michigan Medical School. "If you don't manage them early, small problems...

Read the Diabetes: Best Foot Care article > >

Diabetes is always a serious illness. But it can have greater risks in people who have had an organ transplant. It raises the danger of organ rejection, dangerous infections, and death. So it's especially important for you to treat -- or preferably prevent -- the condition.

What Causes Diabetes After an Organ Transplant?

Organ transplants are so successful these days because we have better drugs that prevent rejection. Unfortunately, many of the drugs used to suppress the immune system -- such as the medication Prograf (tacrolimus) or corticosteroids -- can cause diabetes or make it worse.

Drugs aren't the only cause. Other risk factors are:

  • Obesity
  • A family history of the diabetes
  • Being black or Latino
  • Being older than age 40
  • Having hepatitis C


Treatment for Diabetes After an Organ Transplant

The good news is that diabetes after an organ transplant may not be lasting, says Barry Friedman, RN, administrative director of the Solid Organ Transplant Program at the Children's Medical Center in Dallas. It may go away if you change or reduce your medication dosage. Many people can stop taking steroids after six months or so. This may solve the problem.

In some cases, you may need medicine to treat the diabetes. Lifestyle changes can make a difference, too. They include:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Keeping good control of your blood sugar
  • Exercising
  • Getting regular medical care

Talk to your health care provider if you think that you're at high risk of getting diabetes. He or she may be able to prescribe medicines that are less likely to cause the condition.

Getting diabetes after an organ transplant can be scary. It also adds further hassles to your everyday life. You'll have to watch what you eat and check your blood sugars regularly. But you'll get used to it. Being careful and taking control of your condition makes a huge difference.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on June 15, 2012

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
Woman serving fast food from window
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Middle aged person
are battery operated toothbrushes really better

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
type 2 diabetes
food fitness planner
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture