Diabetes drives 1/3 of all kidney transplants

Unfortunately, the numbers of diabetes patients in the U.S. is on the rise. More and more people are developing Type 1 (childhood onset) and Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes.

An important contributor to increasing diabetes rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is obesity. Americans love to eat, and not necessarily in ways that are good for their health.

With obesity and kidney disfunction is on the rise, dialysis and insulin treatments are increasingly common. So are kidney transplants.


Diabetes mellitus (the technical name for diabetes), is a disease in which your body does not make enough insulin (the hormone that regulates the amount of sugar in the blood), or cannot use normal amounts of insulin. A high blood sugar level can cause problems in many parts of your body.

Type 2, or adult onset diabetes, usually occurs in people over 40 and is the more common form of diabetes. In Type 2, your pancreas makes insulin, but the body is unable to use it properly. Type 2 diabetes is particularly prevalent among African Americans, American Indians, Latin Americans and Asian Americans.


When you have diabetes, the small blood vessels in your body do not work properly to cleanse your blood – the primary function of the kidneys. When this occurs, your body will retain more water and salt than it should, which can result in weight gain and ankle swelling. Waste materials build up in your blood and there may be protein in your urine.

Diabetes can also cause nerve damage. A common symptom of this nerve damage is difficulty completely emptying your bladder. As urine builds up in the bladder, it can back up in the kidneys. Infection sometimes develops from the rapid growth of bacteria due to high urine sugar levels. When this happens repeatedly, the kidneys begin to shut down.


Once a person’s kidneys have failed, there are only a few treatment options:

  • hemodialysis
  • peritoneal dialysis
  • kidney transplantation

About 30 percent of patients with Type 1 diabetes and 10 to 40 percent of those with Type 2 diabetes eventually experience kidney failure.

According to The National Kidney Foundation

  • There are currently 121,678 people in the U.S. waiting for lifesaving organ transplants. Of these, 100,791 await kidney transplants.
  • The median wait time for an individual’s first kidney transplant is 3.6 years and can vary depending on health, compatibility and availability of organs.2
  • Over 3,000 new patients are added to the kidney waiting list each month.1


According to Google, the good news is adult kidney transplantation is perhaps the most successful among all transplant procedures with more than 270,000 successful transplantations performed since 1970.

The bad news is that kidney transplants are also among the most needed. Some 83% of the people on the national transplant waiting list need kidneys.

Recent National Institute of Health (NIH) studies show that COVID-19 seems to have driven an increase in kidney disease and kidney transplants. Heavier individuals tend to be less healthy, and therefore more prone to getting Covid. And, since Covid attacks blood flow (and produces blood clots), those with existing diabetes have an even more difficult time with the blood cleansing process – even on dialysis. They tend to get sicker faster when they get Covid, and, as a result, often need a transplant sooner.

We must be prepared.

With obesity levels continuing to rise and Covid seemingly here to stay, the U.S. will undoubtedly continue to see a steady increase in the need for kidney transplants. We must be prepared, encouraging more kidney donations, and making improvements to the transplantation processes.

Kidney transplants are just one of the reasons MediGO cares for organ journeys. We want to do our part in making the entire transplant industry more efficient, more transparent, and more effective. Transplant patient success stories make our day!