Friday, November 28, 2014
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 Health Notice: A case of a double-edged sword

 By Brian W. Carter, Sentinel Intern

There are times when our health and well being come into question. Sometimes, we don't take care of ourselves properly and sometimes genetics can deal us a bad hand. Unfortunately, some of us find out that we need a transplant whether it's a kidney, liver, lung, heart or even bone marrow. There are hundreds of thousands of people waiting for transplants each year. It is through organ donors, whether alive or dead, that the need is met for transplant patients. Our bodies will almost always reject a new organ because the body recognizes it as foreign, not being of our own body. In order for transplants to take we need Immunosuppressant’s.

Immunosuppressant’s are drugs that help prevent transplant patients from rejecting their donated organs. These drugs, such as Cyclosporine, Azathioprine, Mycophenolate and many others lower the body's immune system, which fights off infections, viruses and other foreign elements, allowing the body to accept the new organ so it can function properly. It all sounds like a pretty easy production although there are side effects.

The drugs can act non-selectively, compromising the immune system, which can cause people to get sick from infections and bacteria the body would normally fight off. Immunosuppressant’s can also have other unpleasant side effects such as upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, mouth ulcers, gastrointestinal problems and other issues, which can be met with proper medication. The one side effect that most people are either unaware of or don't speak about is chronic rejection.

Chronic rejection is a less well-defined type of rejection that can occur within a transplanted organ. One website states it as "a poorly understood chronic inflammatory and immune response against the transplanted tissue." What most people don't know is the very medicine used to keep and prolong the life of the transplant organ can also do damage to the organ. These drugs have a tendency to scar transplanted organs or worse, damage other healthy organs. The kidneys seem to be the organ mostly affected by immunosuppressant drugs. Drugs life Prograf (Tacrolimus) have been shown to scar the kidneys, which can possibly lead to needing transplant surgery. It's particularly bad news for kidney transplant patients who take the drug to keep a new kidney only to possibly lose it eventually due to chronic rejection. It's the case of a double-edged sword; you're in trouble if you do and in trouble if you don't.

So what do you do? Pretty much, you do all that you can to take care of yourself. If you're in no need of an organ transplant....TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEALTH! Schedule annual check-ups to see your physician or specialist to make sure everything is in working order. Make sure you get physical check-ups, eye exams and lab work done. You need labs to make sure your organs are functioning properly and to check that you don't have any serious problems. Many diseases and illnesses may go unseen, and remain asymptomatic, so it is important to do labs annually. If you haven't been feeling well....don't just sit there and wait until it gets worse, seek medical care and find out what's going on with you. And if you need a transplant, it doesn't mean your life is over. It is important to talk to your physician or specialist and ask as many questions as humanly possible. Don't be afraid to ask questions....this is your life possibly on the line, so find out all you can from your physician or specialist. It is also equally important to listen to your physician or specialist as well as the transplant team who'll be handling your case. It may seem as if it's hopeless but there's hope where there is diligence, concern and responsibility. It is YOUR responsibility to stay on top of your health no matter what.

Category: Op-Ed


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