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Type 1 Diabetes May Eventually Lead to a Kidney, Pancreas, or Combined Kidney/Pancreas Transplant

Young and elderly women posing for their picture Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, a hormone that controls glucose in the body. Without enough insulin, excess glucose can build up in the urine and blood. Because the condition often develops in children, it was once referred to as juvenile diabetes. However, because it can also affect adults, it is now more commonly known as insulin-dependent diabetes. With type 1 diabetes mellitus, the pancreas often stops producing insulin over a period of a few weeks or months (the pancreas may still produce other digestive enzymes after insulin production has stopped). Diabetes also affects the kidneys, forcing them to work harder to filter the excess glucose from the blood. Over time, this increased strain can cause the kidneys to become less efficient, or even shut down altogether. As a result of their diabetes, patients may experience complications such as:

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Diabetic retinopathy (vision loss)
  • Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage)
  • Diabetic nephropathy (chronic kidney disease), a complication that affects nearly one-third of patients with insulin-dependent diabetes

Many patients are able to manage their condition with conservative treatments, such as dietary modifications and insulin therapy. However, some patients with type 1 diabetes - also known as insulin dependent diabetes - may eventually require a kidney or pancreas transplant, or possibly even both. Transplants are typically reserved for patients whose diabetes has not responded to other options - and who meet specific criteria for placement on a transplant waiting list.

At Tampa General Hospital, we evaluate each potential transplant patient on an individual basis. We’ll consider a patient’s diagnosis and treatment history, along with financial and psychosocial factors that can influence the long-term outcome of his or her transplant. If, after reviewing a patient’s physician-completed referral form, we determine that a transplant may be an appropriate form of therapy for type 1 diabetes, our transplant coordinator will contact the patient to schedule a secondary evaluation.