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 you need to suppress your immune system.
These problems range from the annoying to the life-threatening. Here's a rundown of some of them.
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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.
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.
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:
High blood pressure
Elevated blood sugars
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.