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Signs of organ transplant rejection

After a transplant, such as a kidney transplant, special drugs have to be taken for life to help prevent the body rejecting the new organ.

Transplant patients need to watch out for signs of organ rejection. These include:

  • Pain at the site of the transplant
  • Feeling unwell
  • Irritability (in children)
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Fever
  • Weight changes
  • Swelling
  • Change in heart rate
  • Passing urine less often

Seek medical advice straight away if you have any of these symptoms.

Organ rejection can be acute or chronic. It's fairly common to have an episode of acute rejection within a year of your transplant. Sometimes, acute rejection leads to chronic rejection. Chronic rejection is when an organ slowly loses its ability to function.

Rejection becomes less likely over time. But you're never quite out of the woods. Even years after the surgery, it may develop. That's why it's vital to keep on top of your condition and have regular checkups.

Dealing with side effects after an organ transplant

Medication taken to suppress your immune system after an organ transplant can be extremely powerful. Consequently, instead of just affecting the immune response to your transplanted organ, it an affect your entire body.
So, the not so good news is that you may experience some side effects. But the good news is that the side effects are usually much easier to cope with than they once were.

The specific side effects vary as it all depends on the combination of post-transplant medicines you use. Here is a general list of some of the side-effects you might experience:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Headache
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Puffy face
  • Anaemia
  • 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 is a long list but try not to be too worried. Not everyone has side effects like these. One transplant recipient's response can be very different from another's.

Make sure to tell your doctor about any side effects. It may be possible to change your medication. Or there may be other ways of treating these problems. There is no need to suffer unnecessarily.

Other medications taken after a transplant

After an organ transplant, in some cases, you may need more medicines to cope with the side-effects. For instance you might take:

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

Since people with transplants need so many medicines, they need to be careful of drug interactions. Make sure that your doctor knows all of the other medications that you use. This includes any over-the-counter or herbal medicines that you may be taking. Even some foods like grapefruit juice can interact with some medications.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on May 14, 2014

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