Why Organ Transplants Can Lead to Diabetes

Getting a donor 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.

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 donor 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 Minesh Khatri, MD on June 30, 2019



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. 

Carithers, R. "Liver and Pancreas Transplantation," ACP Medicine, November 2003. 

Heisel, O. American Journal of Transplantation, 2004. 

Klassen, D. "Renal Transplantation," ACP Medicine, January 2002. 

Sievers, M. Transplant Trends, 2003.


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