Drugs are taken that suppress your immune system after an organ transplant. Unfortunately, they are powerful and can affect the entire body. That means they affect your whole body instead of just the immune response to a 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 drugs you use. Here's a general list of some of the side effects you might have.
Nausea and vomiting
High blood pressure
Swelling and tingling of the hands and feet
Acne and other skin problems
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 a 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 the 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 certain medications.
SOURCES: Barry Friedman, RN, administrative director of the Solid Organ Transplant Program, Children's Medical Center, Dallas; former president of the North American Transplant Coordinators Organization. Richard Perez, MD, PhD, director of the Transplant Center, professor in the Department of Surgery, University of California Medical Center at Davis. Jeffrey D. Punch, MD, associate professor of Surgery, chief of the Division of Transplantation, director of the Liver Transplant Program, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor. National Kidney Foundation web site. United Network for Organ Sharing web site. United Network for Organ Sharing's "Transplant Living" web site. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Partnering with Your Transplant Team: The Patient's Guide to Transplantation, 2004."