Are you considering a transplant due to complications from your diabetes? Or are you trying to arrest the disease and find a cure? Whatever the case may be it is gravely important to read the following about the transplant procedures and the lifetime commitment they require.

Two Basic Types of Transplants

There are two basic types of transplants that diabetics will get. The first is a kidney transplant and is required for either type 1 or type 2 diabetics whose disease has ravaged the kidneys to the point where they are no longer functioning. The second is for type 1 diabetics and involves the pancreas. Pancreas transplants and the related islet cell transplants are a way to "cure" type 1 diabetes as it replaces the pancreas or the cells that produce insulin which the person’s immune system has destroyed.

Kidney Transplant

As mentioned above, diabetes sometimes damages kidneys to such an extent that kidney no longer works. The kidney is a filtration system for your blood and cleans out toxins and waste that would otherwise be harmful to your body. As the kidneys begin to fail waste builds up in the bloodstream and without a replacement for the function of cleaning the blood the inevitable result is death. Dialysis, a machine that a person can be hooked up to in order to filter the blood, is one option and the other is a kidney transplant.

A kidney transplant, according to the American Diabetes Association, is most successful when the donor organ comes from a living relative. Another possibility is an organ taken from a cadaver, which is a deceased person who opted to be an organ donor. The statistics for survival looks pretty good whether its a living relative or cadaver that provided the kidney. One year after receiving a kidney from a relative 97% of people with diabetes were still alive and at the five year mark 83% were still alive. For those receiving a cadaver kidney 93% of people with diabetes were still alive and at the 5 year mark 75% were still alive.

Unfortunately the procedure is not as simple as just plopping another kidney into you. The first step is determining a match of a blood protein called human leukocyte antigen between the donor and the recipient. There is a national database for HLA however too few people opt to be organ donors leading to a shortage of organs. The best case chance remains finding a living relative willing to be a donor. Beyond just an HLA match you are also going to have to take immunosuppresant drugs for the remainder of your life. Because the human body's immune system will identify and destroy anything that is thinks is foreign, this treatment is necessary to insure a successful transplant.

As with any transplant the risks are rejection, infection and bleeding. So it is important first and foremost to proactively manage your diabetes so you don't need a procedure like this. Should you need the procedure rest assured the statistics are very positive with regard to survival but again it is predicated upon keeping tight controls around your blood glucose levels as recommended by the National Institutes of Health.

Pancreas or Islet Cell Transplant

The pancreas is an organ about the size of your hand located behind the lower part of the stomach. It produces enzymes and insulin that help the body digest and use food. Islet cells are clusters of cells found throughout the pancreas and are made up of several different types of cells, including the beta cells which produce insulin. For people with type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease, the beta cells have been destroyed by the immune system rendering them incapable of producing insulin. For people wanting to become independent of the traditional treatment for type 1 diabetes, which includes blood glucose testing and insulin injections, a pancreas or islet cell transplant may be the answer.

Pancreas and islet cell transplants are very risky and in the case of islet cells fairly experimental. According to the American Diabetes Association one to two our of ten pancreas transplant recipients dies within a year of the procedure. These are scary results especially when viewed in light of the 50% rejection rate of the donor organ. Researchers are working very hard to develop a safer more successful procedure particularly with the shortage of donor organs or islet cells. According the the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse 7,000 deceased donors become available every year and roughly half are suitable for transplant. Compare this with the millions of people who suffer from type 1 diabetes and its safe to say there isn't enough to go around.

The islet cell transplant is less invasive and involves transplanting only the islet cells into the pancreas which are then encouraged to "take" and being producing insulin. By as with any transplant procedure immunosupprant drugs are required for life in order to insure rejection doesn't occur.