Solid Organ Transplant
Can your lifestyle affect organ transplant success?
Yes, the things you do each and every day may help with healing and promote overall health. After surgery, it may take some time to return to normal eating and activities. Once able, exercise will help you feel your best and increase the amount of physical activity you can do. It’s important to have a balanced diet. Healthy eating and exercising can help improve bone strength and reduce the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Staying hydrated is also important, and cutting back or eliminating smoking or drinking alcohol may help as well.
New-onset diabetes after transplant
In some patients, it’s possible to develop new-onset diabetes after transplant (NODAT), even if you did not have diabetes prior to the transplant. Following the transplant, your blood sugar will be monitored both in the hospital and during follow up visits. NODAT treatment is focused on normalizing blood sugar levels, which can be achieved through diet, exercise, and antidiabetic medications, if needed.
Living with an organ transplant
Each individual’s experience after a transplant will be different. A patient’s care journey does not end after receiving an organ transplant. In fact, it’s the start of a new chapter of life which will require lifelong management. Leading a healthy, vibrant life requires commitment from patients, caregivers, and providers. In addition to blood sugar, it will be important to monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol, and/or bone health.
For the patient, another big change will be the addition of new long-term medications. These drugs, which are often called immunosuppressants or anti-rejection medications, help your body to shield the newly-transplanted organ from your body’s own immune system. Doing so helps to reduce the risk of transplant rejection. It’s very important to be consistent in taking these medications every day as prescribed. Make sure to speak with your transplant team before making any changes to your medications or how you take them.
What are the possible side effects from transplant medications?
Patients may experience some or all of the following side effects to various degrees:
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain
- New-onset diabetes
- High cholesterol
- Increased risk of bone disease
- Kidney disease
- Increased risk of infection
How can infections be avoided?
The medications that you take can weaken your body’s ability to prevent infections. You have a greater chance of catching something than someone with a healthy immune system. For example, smoking and secondhand smoke can increase the chance of a lung infection. It’s important to know the possible symptoms of an infection. In general, signs of an infection could include:
- Fever over 100 degrees F for more than 4 hours
- Cough with green or yellow phlegm
- Cold or flu symptoms
- Sore throat
- Diarrhea or vomiting for more than 2 days, or if you can’t keep your medications down
- Pain on urination, or increased frequency, or loss of control of bladder
- Mouth sores
Check your temperature every day and report any temperature greater than 100.5 F. Wash your hands well and often, especially before and after meals and when using the bathroom. Clean any cuts or scrapes and watch them closely for redness, fluid, or swelling.
After leaving the hospital, patients who have received an organ transplant often need to take antibiotics for 6-12 months to reduce the risk of an infection. Beyond medications, receiving necessary and recommended vaccinations can help to avoid getting sick. The injectable flu shot is recommended for most patients roughly 3-6 months after transplant. A pneumonia vaccine is also recommended. The shingles vaccine is typically not recommended, and all live vaccines should be avoided. In addition, avoid direct contact with anyone who has received a live vaccine recently.
Depression and anxiety are common in patients who receive an organ transplant. Both adults and children may get depressed.
Symptoms may include:
- Loss of interest in daily activities and/or feelings of great sadness
- Loss of appetite or increased appetite
- Inability to experience pleasure
- Sleeping too much or having difficulty sleeping
- Headaches or general aches and pains
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Difficulty completing tasks or concentrating
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Anxiety attacks
- Tearfulness or being unable to cry
- Soft, slow speech
Depression can be successfully managed via medications and counseling. Patients who experience any of the symptoms above should seek medical help.
Overcoming medication challenges
It’s important for you to know the benefits of your medications. Here at Magellan Rx, we understand your concerns and want to help you with any difficulties you may encounter. For additional information on how to overcome medication challenges, please click here: Overcoming Medication Challenges