10 Tips to Maintain Long-Term Health After a Kidney Transplant
1. Mind Your Meds
One of the most important responsibilities you will have after getting your kidney transplant is following a prescribed and complex medication regimen.
Taking immunosuppressant (anti-rejection) medications will be required for the rest of your life.
Anti-rejections drugs reduce the chance of your body rejecting the transplanted organ and must be taken at the same time each day to ensure that a stable level of medication is maintained.
2. Don’t Skip Regular Labs
Another lifelong commitment will be routine lab work to assess how well your kidney transplant is functioning and detect early indications of organ rejection.
In addition to monitoring transplant health, routine labs help monitor medication levels to ensure they remain stable.
RemoTraC® is a remote, home-based, blood-draw service that brings a phlebotomist to your home for a standard panel of AlloSure® or AlloMap® surveillance tests—as well as for other standard transplant tests like:
- Immunosuppressant level
- Complete blood count
- Viral PCR
- Creatinine Ratio (kidney)
You can talk to your doctors about getting your transplant labs done through RemoTraC, or you can sign up directly at www.caredx.com/remotrac to see if you qualify.
A CareDx patient-care manager will work with your doctor or center to make the needed arrangements.
3. Attend Scheduled Appointments
Routine clinic visits with your transplant team can help detect transplant complications.
Bring your updated list of medications to each clinic visit. Ask questions and clarify concerns. Many doctors now offer telemedicine visits that make regular check-ins with your doctor easier than ever.
4. Keep it Clean
The anti-rejection medications that prevent organ rejection also lower your body’s ability to fight infection.
The following are signs of infection that should be reported to your transplant team:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Difficulty urinating
- Foul smelling and cloudy urine
- Wounds that will not heal
- White pouches in your mouth
Hand hygiene is still the #1 most important way to prevent infection.
5. Drink Up
Following your successful kidney transplant, it is essential to stay well hydrated.
The Cleveland Clinic suggests drinking 2 liters (about 6 8 ounces, or, 8.5 cups) of water per day.1
Be aware of the fluids you choose, as some (e.g., caffeinated drinks) can cause dehydration.
6. Eat Well
Maintaining a healthy diet is beneficial to taking care of your transplant.
After your transplant, you will have fewer dietary restrictions than you had while on dialysis/prior to your transplant.
A heart-healthy diet that is low in fat and sodium is often recommended by kidney-transplant teams.
If you can, consult with a transplant dietitian. They are a great resource and can assist you with individual nutritional requirements.
7. Monitor Your Glucose
After a transplant, prescribed steroids and anti-rejection medications can sometimes elevate your blood-glucose levels.
There is also a small chance that you can develop post-transplant diabetes mellitus, which can increase the risk of infections, cardiovascular complications, and organ rejection.
Blood-glucose levels can be monitored. Also, oral medications or insulin may be prescribed to maintain healthy blood-glucose levels and prevent damage to the transplanted organ.
8. Screen for Cancer
Organ-transplant recipients are at an increased risk of developing cancer due to the anti-rejection medications they take.
To increase the likelihood of early detection of cancer, the following should be completed, as recommended based on your age and medical history:
- Prostate and skin-cancer screenings
If a cancer diagnosis is confirmed, immediately contact your transplant team, as medication adjustments may be necessary to prevent injury to the transplanted organ.
9. Step up Those Steps
Regular exercise helps you to:
- Improve physical health
- Strengthen the heart and your cardiovascular system
- Lower blood pressure
- Increase energy
- Improve sleep
- Maintain healthy weight
Low-impact exercise options include walking, bicycling, and swimming.
Before starting any exercise regimen, be sure to talk to your doctor.
10. Health Apps Can Really Help
Staying on top of so many tasks may seem daunting, but there are tools you can use to track of all your critical health metrics.
The AlloCare® app is a free app designed for transplant patients. AlloCare can do several things to make your transplant management easier, like:
- Tracking health metrics and trends
- Sending reminders to take your medications on time
- Tracking fluids, steps, weight, blood pressure, and mood
- Helping you schedule your next lab draw
It can be easy to become complacent over time, but it is vital that you stay compliant with your daily regimen. It is important to stick with your medication regimen for the rest of your life.
Do not stop taking medications, skip doses, or self-adjust your medication dosage.
Maintain a good relationship with your transplant team and always attend scheduled lab and clinic appointments.
Ashley Pearce is a Registered Nurse who spent 7 years as a Transplant Coordinator in Oklahoma. She is currently a Customer Experience Manager at CareDx, a leading precision medicine company that is 100% focused on transplant care.
Always seek the advice of your physician or medical team with any questions you may have regarding your specific medical condition. The information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice from your healthcare provider.