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Managing Your Health After an Organ Transplant

After an organ transplant, most patients quickly feel better. They go on to enjoy a significantly improved quality of life.

But they are also likely to face big health challenges.

Here are some tips for managing your health after an organ transplant.

Medications After a Transplant

After an organ transplant, you will need to take immunosuppressant (anti-rejection) drugs. These drugs help prevent your immune system from attacking ("rejecting") the new organ. Typically they must be taken for the lifetime of your transplanted organ.

You will take other medications to help the anti-rejection drugs do their job or control their side effects. And you may need to take medications for other health conditions.

Organ rejection is a constant threat. Keeping the immune system from attacking your transplanted organ requires constant vigilance. So it's likely that your transplant team will make adjustments to your anti-rejection drug regimen.

After your transplant, it's vital that you:

  • Keep all your doctor appointments.
  • Undergo every recommended lab test.
  • Take all your prescription drugs.

It's also important to find a good pharmacist who can help you:

  • Understand your medications.
  • Manage your medication schedule.
  • Understand how the medicine works.
  • Learn about side effects and interactions.

Although rejection is a scary word, it doesn't necessarily mean that you will lose your new organ. Most of the time, a rejection can be reversed if your doctor detects its early signs.

The symptoms of rejection -- and the medical tests used to detect rejection -- vary by the type of your organ transplant. So it's important to familiarize yourself with the early symptoms of rejection that are specific to your transplant.

If your doctor identifies a rejection, he or she will first try to reverse it by adjusting your medications. For example, you may need to:

  • Switch to a new drug.
  • Add another drug.
  • Take a larger or smaller dose of your medications.

During the first few months after an organ transplant, your transplant team will see you frequently to assess the function of your new organ. Your doctor will help you develop good health habits to keep your body as healthy as possible.

The transplant team also will urge you to:

  • Keep all wellness checkups.
  • Monitor your blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol.
  • Get all recommended health screenings on schedule.

Medication Side Effects

After an organ transplant, you may experience short-term medication side effects such as:

  • Hair growth or hair loss
  • Acne
  • Mood swings
  • Round face
  • Enlarged gums
  • Weight gain

These side effects may let up as your initial high dose of medication is tapered down.

You also may experience other side effects such as:

  • Diarrhea
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Elevated blood sugars
  • Infection

If you notice any side effects, don't stop taking the drugs on your own. First, let your doctor know. He or she can adjust your prescriptions to minimize side effects without increasing your risk of organ rejection.

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