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Dealing With Side Effects After an Organ Transplant

Drugs are taken that suppress your immune system after an organ transplant. Unfortunately, they are powerful and can affect your entire body. That means they affect your whole body instead of just the immune response to your transplanted organ.

So the bad news is that you may have some side effects. The good news is that side effects are much easier to cope with than they once were.

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The specific side effects vary. It depends on the combination of post-transplant medicines you use. Here's a general list of some of the side effects you might have.

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Puffy face
  • Anemia
  • Arthritis
  • Weakened bones
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Mood swings
  • Swelling and tingling of the hands and feet
  • Acne and other skin problems
  • Tremors
  • Hair loss or unwanted hair growth

Yes, it's a long list. But don't worry too much. Not everyone gets side effects like these. One transplant recipient's response can be very different from another's.

Make sure to tell your health care provider about any side effects. He or she may be able to change your medication. Or he or she may have other ways of treating these problems. Don't suffer needlessly.

Other Drugs Taken After an Organ Transplant

In some cases after an organ transplant, you may need more drugs to cope with the side effects of immunosuppressants. For instance you might take:

  • Antibiotics and antifungal medications. They treat infections that result from your suppressed immune system.
  • Anti-ulcer medications. They treat gastrointestinal side effects.
  • Diuretics. They help with kidney problems or high blood pressure.

Many people only need extra medications during the early part of their treatment. When your doctor lowers your dose of immunosuppressants, the side effects may bother you less or go away.

Since people with transplants need so many drugs, they need to be very careful of drug interactions. Make sure that your health care provider knows all of the other medications that you use. This includes any over-the-counter or herbal medicines. Even some foods such as grapefruit juice can interact with some medications.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on June 15, 2012

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