Maintaining Your Health
For the first three to six months after your transplant, you will have frequent follow-up visits with the transplant team and frequent laboratory tests. Gradually, however, you will see the transplant team less often. At this stage, you can look forward to having more time for yourself and your activities. You will become even more responsible for maintaining your own health. It is very important that you:
- Take all of your medications exactly as they were prescribed.
- Do not miss any of your scheduled follow-up visits.
- Do not miss any of your scheduled laboratory tests.
- Be on watch for complications or problems.
- Know the signs of rejection and infection, and report any of these signs to the transplant team right away.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat nutritious foods.
- Monitor your weight once or twice a week for large gains or losses.
As you begin to see the transplant team less often, many of your healthcare visits will be to your primary care physician and in some cases gastroenterologist or hepatologist.
Your Primary Care Doctor
For regular checkups and common medical problems such as a cold or the flu, you will see your primary care doctor. Let your doctor know that you have had a transplant so if you do become ill, your doctor can act quickly, contacting the transplant team if necessary. Check with your doctor to be sure any medication he or she prescribes will not interfere with the medications you take to prevent rejection.
You will need to see some specialists in your community as your visits to the transplant team become less frequent. If you have a liver disease (like chronic hepatitis), you will see a hepatologist (a type of gastroenterologist who sees patients with liver diseases). Some liver transplant patients may need to see a nephrologist - a doctor who specializes in kidney care and kidney disease. If you have diabetes, you may see an endocrinologist.
Other specialists who need to be aware of your special medical needs include the following:
- A dermatologist specializes in care of the skin. Because of some of the medicines you take, you will be at higher risk for skin cancer. The dermatologist should check you annually and can advise you about how to protect yourself. He or she also can help with other skin-related side effects you may be experiencing such as severe acne, warts, changes in the color of moles or rashes.
- An ophthalmologist specializes in eye care. If you take prednisone, you may be at higher risk for glaucoma and cataracts. You should have an eye exam at least once a year.
- A gynecologist specializes in care of the female body. Female transplant recipients should have yearly gynecological checkups that include a Pap smear and a breast exam. Some of your medications put you at higher risk for certain types of cancer, and it is important to screen for them on a regular basis. The gynecologist also should check with your transplant team before prescribing a contraceptive for you.
- An obstetrician cares for women throughout pregnancy and childbirth. If you plan to become pregnant, it is very important to work closely with both your transplant team and an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk cases.
- A dentist/oral surgeon cares for your teeth and gums. Good oral hygiene is important to prevent infections, so regular checkups and cleanings are necessary. You will need to take antibiotics, to guard against infection, before you have any dental work done. Take care of dental problems such as cavities, impacted teeth and gum disease right away.
- A psychiatrist specializes in mental health care. If you have a psychiatrist, or plan to consult a psychiatrist, make sure that he or she talks to your transplant doctor before prescribing any new psychiatric medications.