Even With a Kidney Transplant, it’s Still Not Over

There are so many reasons we should maintain our health to prevent kidney disease in the first place, or maintain as much health as possible after contracting the disease. But if kidney failure progresses so far that a transplant occurs, most people would expect that the surgery solves everything. With a lower rate of organ rejection than ever before, almost all transplant recipients should finally rest easy that health problems related to diseased kidneys are over. Right?

Unfortunately, that may not be entirely true.
Over time, more than half of all kidney transplant recipients develop endocrinal, or hormonal, problems. These can lead to later health issues such as diabetes, higher cholesterol levels, and even osteoporosis. Kidney patients may feel that it’s just not fair, to be at risk of something like diabetes because of failing kidneys, and then be at risk for the same thing after that problem was supposedly rectified.

The reasons for these risks stem in part from the procedures connected with the transplant itself. Immunosuppressants are given to transplant patients to help the body not reject the new organ. But these suppressants include drugs that can reduce the body’s ability to make insulin. By some accounts, as many as one-quarter of kidney transplant patients develop diabetes some time after their surgery.

Other complications may involve leptin levels. Leptins help to regulate appetite, but researchers have recognized another correlation in which they are involved. In transplant patients, when leptin levels are high, bone production appears to be reduced, meaning the possible development of osteoporosis.

Transplantation can save lives, but it’s not the ideal solution to kidney disease. The real solution should be for people to be in excellent health before any disease can develop. And if it does occur, they need to try to heal the kidneys and maintain the best health possible in the meantime.

(Further reading: The Times of India, January 6, 2011; RxPG News, December 27, 2010)

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