Taking immunosuppressants. These medications decrease the activity of your immune system to prevent it from attacking your donated heart. Because your immune system will most likely never completely accept the new organ, you’ll take some of these medications for the rest of your life.
Immunosuppressant medications may cause noticeable side effects. For example, when taking post-transplant drugs such as corticosteroids, your face may become round and full, and you may gain weight, develop acne or facial hair, or experience stomach problems. Some side effects of immunosuppressant drugs may be more noticeable when you first start the drugs, but they may decrease in severity over time.
Because immunosuppressants make your body more vulnerable to infection, your doctor may also prescribe antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal medications.
Some immunosuppressants could also worsen conditions — or raise your risk of developing conditions — such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, osteoporosis or diabetes.
Over time as the risk of rejection is reduced, the doses and number of anti-rejection drugs can be reduced, but you’ll need some immunosuppressant medications indefinitely.
Managing medications, therapies and a lifelong care plan. After a heart transplant, taking all your medications as your doctor instructs and following a lifelong care plan is important.
Your doctor may give you specific instructions regarding lifestyle guidelines, such as wearing sunscreen, not using tobacco products, exercising, eating a healthy diet and being careful to lower your risk of infection in daily life.
Follow all of your doctor’s instructions, see your doctor regularly for follow-up appointments, and let your doctor know if you have any signs or symptoms of complications.
It’s a good idea to set up a daily routine for taking your medications so that you won’t forget. Keep a list of all your medications with you at all times in case you need emergency medical attention, and tell all your doctors what you take each time you’re prescribed a new medicine.