The pancreas is a solid organ in the abdomen, located behind the stomach. The pancreas has two major functions:
- Production of enzymes to help in the digestion and processing of food
- Production of the hormones insulin and glucagon, which regulate blood sugar levels
Type I diabetes, often referred to as "juvenile diabetes," is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. This lack of insulin leads to elevated levels of blood sugar. Physicians may prescribe insulin injections or insulin pump devices to help manage blood sugar levels.
Type II diabetes is often referred to as "adult-onset diabetes," although it may be diagnosed in younger individuals. In type II diabetes the pancreas still produces insulin, but the body is unable to process the insulin correctly resulting in "insulin-resistance." Type II diabetes is often associated with other metabolic problems such as obesity, and may occur more frequently in patients with a family history of type II diabetes. Physicians may prescribe oral medications to help control blood sugar, and insulin injections may also be necessary to keep the blood sugar in a normal range.
Patients with diabetes of either type may develop complications of their disease including:
- Poor regulation of the blood sugar with levels that are dangerously high or dangerously low
- Vision loss
- Loss of nerve function with reduced sensation in the feet
- Poor wound healing and foot ulcers
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Kidney failure
The experienced physicians at the Transplant Center will discuss treatment options for each patient with diabetes and recommend the treatment that is best for the patient based his/her disease severity, age, lifestyle, and overall health. For certain patients with type I diabetes, pancreas transplantation is an excellent treatment option.