Your Health In Focus

Taking care of yourself is the most important thing you can do after a transplant. Not only will it help prevent your body from rejecting your transplant, but it'll also help you feel involved.

The first step to taking care of yourself is being aware of the health risks you face post transplant:

Mental Health

After your transplant, life can be very stressful. It's normal to feel nervous or depressed to some degree. Your family may have similar feelings.

If your family or you experience any of these emotions, ask your transplant team about counseling services, support groups, or resources that can help you all understand transplantation and how to live post transplant.

Some of your medications can also affect the way you feel emotionally. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have so that he or she can put together a plan that works for you.

Skin Safety

Your medications reduce your body's immune response. As a result, risk for skin cancer is significantly increased after transplantation.

Here are some tips for keeping your skin protected:

  • Wear a “broad-spectrum,” sweat-proof, waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater—every day, even on cloudy or rainy days.
  • Apply sunscreen liberally daily— the back of your neck, tops of ears, hands, and any other area exposed to light.
  • Re-apply sunscreen as needed when enjoying outdoor summer and winter activities.
  • Wear protective clothing such as long sleeves, pants, and a hat.
  • Be aware that between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. the rays of the sun are most intense.

Oral Health

Excellent dental care is essential for everyone. However, it's especially important for someone who's had a transplant. That's because oral problems can lead to oral infections, which can release bacteria into your bloodstream. The medications you take to help prevent rejection unfortunately also put you at a higher risk for infection.

To reduce your risk, stay on top of your oral hygiene by:

  • Brushing your teeth twice daily
  • Gently flossing your teeth once daily
  • Replacing your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months
  • Keeping your regular dental appointments

When visiting your dentist, it's important to tell them which medications you're currently taking, including any immunosuppressive medications you might be on.

Also, before having any dental work done, including teeth cleaning, you may be advised to take an antibiotic to help prevent infection. Be sure to consult with your transplant physician to decide if an antibiotic is needed. If so, your transplant team can provide you with a letter letting your dentist know that you'll need a prescription for an antibiotic, and which antibiotic is recommended.

Bone Health

Reduced bone health is a common problem in the years after a transplant. This may be due to reduced kidney function or the long-term use of certain medications.

When your bone health is reduced, you're at increased risk for osteoporosis, a disease where your bones become weak and brittle. If left untreated, osteoporosis can lead to fractures or tiny breaks, commonly found in your spine, hips, and wrists.

Talk to your transplant team about your risk for post transplant osteoporosis and treatments to help protect your bone strength. These may include:

  • Calcium and vitamin D — a good source is through the foods you eat, such as dark, leafy greens and dairy products, but vitamin supplements may be necessary
  • Weight-bearing exercise like walking, weightlifting, and aerobics
  • Medications that can help reverse bone loss

Heart Health

If you're taking anti-rejection medications post transplant, you may be at increased risk for heart disease or stroke. That's because anti-rejection medications may increase your cholesterol levels and/or your blood pressure. If cholesterol levels get too high, blood vessels may become partially clogged, slowing or blocking the flow of blood.

Eating foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol can also raise your blood cholesterol to unhealthy levels.

Learn more about the risk of high cholesterol and high blood pressure to ensure that you're taking the best care of your health.