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Diabetes and Pancreas Transplantation

Insulin and Diabetes

A healthy pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that regulates the amount of glucose, or blood sugar, in our body. It is important to keep a constant supply of blood sugar - spreading it out between meals - to power our cells and keep up our energy. The cycle works like this: Our body turns the food we eat into glucose or sugar, the rising level of blood sugar triggers the pancreas to produce insulin, the insulin stimulates the cells to absorb the glucose, and the cells uptake the glucose for immediate or stored energy. Gradually the glucose level in our bloodstream drops and the body secretes less insulin.

People who are unable to clear glucose from their bloodstream have a disease called diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, also called diabetes mellitus, the pancreas does not produce any insulin. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas makes insulin, but the body is unable to use it. Left untreated, elevated blood sugar can cause kidney failure, cardiovascular and eye disease, nerve damage, and other serious health complications.

Medical Treatment

Individuals with diabetes need medical treatment to control blood glucose levels. People with type 1 diabetes need daily insulin injections to replace what their bodies are unable to make. People with type 2 diabetes benefit most often from pills (oral medication) to help their bodies use the insulin they produce more effectively. For both types of diabetes, essential treatment also includes a healthy diet, physical activity and regular visits to a physician who specializes in diabetes (a diabetologist or endocrinologist).

Contact Information

Transplant Institute
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Lowry Medical Office Building, 7th Floor
110 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02215