By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
After a kidney transplant there are numerous advices to be followed. This includes general advice on a healthy lifestyle and avoidance of triggers that may damage the kidneys.
Advice after discharge includes taking medications as directed, quitting smoking and so forth.
Taking medications as directed
Patients who have received a kidney transplant need to take medications regularly to keep their immunity suppressed. This needs to be continued lifelong for almost all patients. Patients are advised not to stop these medications on their own or modify their doses or regimen without consulting their physician.
All patients who are smokers are asked to quit as soon as possible. It is seen that people who continued to smoke after a kidney transplant are twice as likely to have a kidney failure as those who are non smokers.
Avoidance of alcohol and drugs
Drinking excessive alcohol can be dangerous for persons who have had a kidney transplant. In addition alcohol is high in calories and leads to weight gain.
The recommended limits of alcohol are 3-4 units a day for men and 2-3 units a day for women. Illegal drugs of abuse should be avoided as these may damage the kidneys, lead to sudden and prolonged rise in blood pressure and interact with the immunosuppressive medications.
Before taking any over-the-counter or herbal medications physicians should be notified as these may interact with the immunosuppressive medications.
Healthy balanced diet
Patients are advised to take plenty of fruit and vegetables of at least five portions a day. A major portion of diet should be starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice, pasta etc. Part of the diet should contain milk and dairy foods, meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein. Fats and sugars should be taken in moderation. Salts should be avoided as much as possible as it raises blood pressure.
Weight loss and exercise
Once the patient has recovered regular physical activity is recommended. Adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity physical or aerobic activity every week.
The definition of moderate intensity activity means exercise that increases the heart and breathing rate and may make the person sweat. Examples include jogging, swimming, fast walking, treadmill etc. Those who are overweight or obese need to reduce their weight to achieve a healthy weight.
Avoidance of the infection
Those who take immunosuppressive medications are at risk of infections and are immunocompromised. To prevent infections good personal hygiene should be maintained and persons with contagious infections, such as flu or chicken pox should be avoided. Good personal hygiene includes regular hand washing before eating, after using the toilet etc.
Care should be taken not to cut or graze the skin to avoid infections. Vaccinations against infections are important but some vaccines containing live viruses such as the mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) vaccine cannot be used.
Sex life after kidney transplant
Sexual intercourse should be avoided till the abdominal incision wound is completely healed. This may take 4 to 6 weeks. Women should avoid getting pregnant at least for a year after the surgery.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)