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.
If you have diabetes, you probably know the warning signs of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. "It's been described best as a little like the feeling you get when you're sliding on ice in a car: panic, rapid heart rate, [and] sort of a sense of doom," says John Buse, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, chief of the division of endocrinology, and executive associate dean for clinical research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.
You also probably know that hypoglycemia...
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:
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
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.
Barry Friedman, RN, administrative director of the Solid Organ Transplant Program, Children's Medical Center, Dallas; former president of the North American Transplant Coordinators Organization. Richard Perez, MD, PhD, director of the Transplant Center, professor in the Department of Surgery, University of California Medical Center at Davis. Jeffrey D. Punch, MD, associate professor of Surgery, chief of the Division of Transplantation, director of the Liver Transplant Program, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor. National Kidney Foundation web site. United Network for Organ Sharing web site. United Network for Organ Sharing's "Transplant Living" web site. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Partnering with Your Transplant Team: The Patient's Guide to Transplantation, 2004." Bihl,G. Dialysis and Transplantation, 2004; vol 33: pp 244-249. Carithers, R. "Liver and Pancreas Transplantation," ACP Medicine, November 2003. Heisel, O. American Journal of Transplantation, 2004; vol 4: 583-595. Klassen, D. "Renal Transplantation," ACP Medicine, January 2002. Sievers, M. Transplant Trends, 2003; vol 5: pp 190-209.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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