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Common Health Problems After an Organ Transplant

Most people who have an organ transplant live a pretty normal life. But organ transplants can still lead to other medical problems. This is usually because of the medicines needed to suppress the immune system so it doesn't "fight" the new organ.

These problems range from the annoying to the life-threatening. Here's a rundown of some of them.

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  • Diabetes.
  • High cholesterol. High cholesterol doesn't have any symptoms itself, but it's still dangerous. It can clog up your blood vessels, possibly damage your new organ, and eventually lead to heart disease. It's a fairly common side effect of some of the medications used to control your immune system response after a transplant.
  • High blood pressure. Again, the medicines you need can aggravate or cause high blood pressure. While it can be a serious condition, it may get better as you taper off your medication. You may need to change some of your habits, too. Make sure to eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise.
  • Gastrointestinal problems. This is a fairly common side effect of steroids. Your health care professional may prescribe medication to help. On your own, do what you can to settle your stomach. Take medication with meals to reduce irritation. Cut down on alcohol and drinks with caffeine.
  • Gout. A buildup of uric acid in the blood can result in gout, a painful inflammation of some joints. It can be caused or worsened by some of the post-transplant medications used to suppress your immune system. Treatment depends on your specific case. It may be possible to change some of your medications to control the condition.
  • Anxiety and depression. People who have received a transplant have usually been through a lot of frightening and nerve-racking experiences: coping with a life-threatening disease, waiting for a transplant, recovering from serious surgery and readjusting to life. It's not surprising that many people develop chronic anxiety and depression. Medications can make them worse and cause mood swings. But don't ever accept these conditions as normal. Get help. Talk to your organ transplant team. There's no reason for you to suffer.
  • Sexual problems. Some people who have a transplant develop some sexual problems, such as a decreased sex drive or loss of function. These symptoms can be caused by health problems, your medication, stress, or a combination. Although it may feel embarrassing, get help. There's nothing to be ashamed of. Your health care provider may be able to resolve the problem.
  • Unwanted hair growth. The solution to this problem is the obvious: try shaving, waxing, or using drugstore products that remove hair.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on January 16, 2015

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