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Life after an organ transplant

Organ transplants, such as kidney transplants, can be life changing for the person receiving the new organ.

Although transplants are an effective treatment for many medical conditions, special medication needs to be taken for life to help stop the body from rejecting the new organ. This can affect the immune system, making the person more vulnerable to infections and other medical problems.

Complications after an organ transplant include:

  • Diabetes.
  • High cholesterol. High cholesterol doesn't have any symptoms itself, but it's still dangerous. It can clog up your blood vessels, possibly damage your new organ, and eventually lead to heart disease. It's quite a common side effect of some of the medications used to control your immune system response after a transplant.
  • High blood pressure. Again, the drugs you need can aggravate or cause high blood pressure. While it can be a serious condition, it may get better as you taper off your medication. You may need to change some of your habits too. Make sure to eat a healthy diet and take regular exercise.
  • Gastrointestinal problems. This is a fairly common side effect of steroids. Your doctor may prescribe medication to help. On your own, do what you can to settle your stomach. For example, taking medication with meals helps to reduce irritation, as does cutting down on alcohol and drinks with caffeine.
  • Gout. A buildup of uric acid in the blood can result in gout, a painful inflammation of some joints. It can be caused or worsened by some of the post-transplant medications used to suppress your immune system. Treatment depends on your specific case. It may be possible to change some of your medications to control the condition.
  • Anxiety and depression. People who have received a transplant have usually been through a lot of frightening and nerve-racking experiences: coping with a life-threatening disease, waiting for a transplant, recovering from surgery and readjusting to life. It's not surprising that many people develop chronic anxiety and depression. Medication can make these worse and cause mood swings, but don't ever accept these conditions as normal. Get help and talk to your organ transplant team. There's absolutely no reason for you to suffer.
  • Sexual problems. Some people who have a transplant develop some sexual problems, such as a decreased sex drive or loss of function. These symptoms can be caused by a combination of health problems including your medication and stress levels. Although it may feel embarrassing, ask for help. There's nothing to be ashamed of and your doctor may be able to resolve the problem.
  • Unwanted hair growth. The solutions to this problem are simply the obvious ones: shaving, waxing, or using products that remove hair.

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